WASHINGTON - The consolidation of German control over the Chrysler group is not, for the moment, threatening the company's participation in a major research program funded in part by U.S. taxpayers.
'I don't expect any harm or changes' to the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, said partnership spokeswoman Cheryl Mendonsa. The partnership is developing fuel-efficient vehicles.
Representatives of the government agencies and industry companies in the partnership met in Washington last week and talked about progress and challenges but raised 'no fundamental question like that at all,' she said.
Dennis Fitzgibbons, director of public policy for DaimlerChrysler, agreed: 'If some of the other members are trying to kick us out, they have not said so.'
In November, DaimlerChrysler AG put two German executives at the top of the Chrysler group.
Janet Mullins Grissom, Ford's vice president for Washington affairs and an occasional critic of DaimlerChrysler's role in the partnership, said last week she knows of no one trying to make an issue of the latest company changes.
She said people in industry and in government are grappling with bigger matters, such as the health of the industry and the unsettled political landscape in Washington.
While winning congressional support for partnership funding is an annual struggle, DaimlerChrys-ler's troubles may have an opposite effect, Grissom said.
'When you have big problems, people are not looking for vulnerabilities and ways to hurt you,' she said.
The partnership is a 10-year effort to develop technology for fuel-efficient vehicles. It was launched in 1993 by Ford, General Motors, the former Chrysler Corp., suppliers, universities, national laboratories and federal agencies. It gets about $250 million of federal money annually.
Automaker members addressed DaimlerChrysler's right to continue after Daimler-Benz AG acquired Chrysler in 1998. They said the partnership is open to manufacturers with significant research facilities in the United States and willingness 'to fully contribute technology' to the joint effort.