DETROIT - The Chrysler group plans to shop the parts bins of Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and radically increase the number of common components it uses on Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep vehicles.
Parts sharing should allow Chrysler to cut costs and chop the time it takes to send vehicles to market, said Rich Schaum, executive vice president for product development and quality.
The plan to share parts across three continents was a key goal of wide-ranging changes to the group's product development methods announced last week.
Parts sharing, which was a challenge for the company after Daimler-Benz AG's acquisition of Chrysler Corp. in 1998, has been embraced thoroughly to take advantage of DaimlerChrysler AG's global operations.
Chrysler's goal is to get a new vehicle based on an existing platform to the customer just 18 months after the design is frozen. Chrysler's best time to market is 26 months with the Dodge Durango, which is based on the Dakota pickup.
The move is part of a retooling of Chrysler's innovative platform teams, groups of engineers and designers that see a vehicle through from conception to production.
Mitsubishi and Chrysler likely will share platforms. They are discussing platform sharing for the next versions of the Chrysler group's compact and mid-sized cars.
But no Mercedes-Benz platforms will be used for Chrysler group vehicles. Chrysler group 'component teams' will identify parts, such as suspension assemblies, transmissions and steering components, that can be used in Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler vehicles.
The component teams will be on the hot seat. They will be charged with squeezing the cost out of vehicles by commonizing as many parts as possible. The component teams will deal with suppliers, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi as well as monitor new technology.
The component team leader will have to defend parts choices to Chrysler group CEO Dieter Zetsche and others. 'He'll be the expert in his field, and no one can surpass him,' said Chrysler COO Wolfgang Bernhard.
The opportunities to share parts within the Chrysler group are significant. For example, Chrysler group vehicles use 24 different types of batteries but probably need only five.
It will be a challenge, Chrysler officials admit, to make distinctive vehicles that use so many of the same parts.
Said Bernhard: 'We want to have fast winners. But the trick is getting the balance right, changing enough.'