STUTTGART, Germany -- The Chrysler group is being considered as the principal source for a new family of four-cylinder engines being developed by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Hyundai Motor Corp. for worldwide use of all three companies.
In a brief interview here last week, Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche said the partners are studying whether Chrysler should supply all Mitsubishi and Hyundai-Kia vehicles sold in North America with the engines, as well as itself.
That would indicate additional production for Chrysler of more than 600,000 engines annually, not including engines it would produce for itself. It is unclear whether Chrysler's existing engine plants could absorb that much new production - not all of it would be a net increase, or if a new factory would be needed.
Chrysler has the capacity to produce 944,000 four-cylinder engines a year at three plants.
The three companies last month created a joint venture to develop and produce some 1.5 million 1.8-, 2.0- and 2.4-liter engines annually but did not define production responsibilities. The venture, called the Global Engine Alliance, is owned equally by the three partners.
DaimlerChrysler owns 37.3 percent of Mitsubishi and manages the Japanese automaker, and it has a 10.5 percent stake in Hyundai.
Hyundai will be the first to begin production, starting in 2004. Chrysler and Mitsubishi will start in 2005.
In the United States, Chrysler would be the biggest user of the gasoline-powered engines, particularly the larger 2.4-liter displacement, which is why the company may take the manufacturing lead, Zetsche said.
Although the new engine family was developed by Hyundai, Zetsche admitted that Chrysler is changing many of its key parameters, including cylinder bore. He did not provide specifics but said an engineering team has been sent to Korea.
Two weeks ago, Chrysler appointed a top executive to head a team to study possible manufacturing sites for the engine. Chrysler's biggest engine production plant, in Saltillo, Mexico, is scheduled to make about 208,000 2.0-liter engines and 330,000 2.4-liter engines this year.
The Chrysler group will use the new engines in the compact vehicles being jointly developed with Mitsubishi to replace the Dodge Neon and the Mitsubishi Eclipse and Lancer.