DETROIT - Dodge sees little chance of turning the M80 concept pickup into a production vehicle because of a new internal mandate that says all mainstream Dodges must deliver 100,000 sales annually.
The concept truck drew rave reviews after it was introduced in bold "detonator yellow" skin at the Detroit auto show in January.
Last month, Chrysler group executives said they were trying to make a business case that would put the M80 on a fast track to production.
But Dodge says it is struggling to find a way to price the vehicle low enough to command 100,000 sales annually.
"We won't do a Dodge vehicle that can't get itself to sales of 8,000 to 10,000 (units) a month,'' said James Julow, vice president of Dodge Division. "We have 3,000 dealers. And if you want them all to stock it and to sell it, you can't fall much below that threshold and expect all those Dodge dealers to be in business."
The attitude reflects the tighter scrutiny the Chrysler group is giving to new vehicles as it continues with its financial recovery. A 29 percent cut in Chrysler's vehicle development budget - from $42 billion in the past five years to $30 billion for 2002-2006- has forced the company to set higher standards for production vehicles.
The budget cut has been accompanied by an effort to clarify the role and positioning of the Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler brands.
"I'm not sure the outside world has picked up on the differences we have put into the brands in the last year and a half,'' Julow said. "It is amazing internally how this has clarified the role of Dodge. Dodge is a volume brand as defined by our global positioning of all brands within DaimlerChrysler. It is our mainstream and full-line brand.
"The definition of niche is different for Dodge than the others. We are looking at 100,000 units a year."
Julow said an exception to the rule is the Dodge Viper, a $70,000, high-profit sports car. Dodge sold 1,388 Vipers last year. Specialty cars created by the Chrysler group's Performance Vehicle Operations unit also would be exempt.
"Viper is the odd case, but you probably don't have more than 100 dealers in the country that do multiple Viper sales in a year," he said.