AUBURN HILLS, Michigan, USA -- The Dodge M80 could be the first pickup truck Chrysler sells in Europe - if it is built.
First seen as a concept at January's Detroit auto show, the youth-oriented M80 is smaller than Dodge's two existing pickups, Dakota and Ram.
"We are currently studying the business case. We are trying very hard to find a way to build that car," said Rich Schaum, Chrysler's executive vice president for product development and quality. "We will have a decision by the end of this year."
If the M80 is built and exported to Europe, there is still the question of how it would be badged.
The Dodge brand isn't sold in Europe. But establishing a new, separate dealer network for Dodge in Europe would be too costly, Schaum said.
"There is an internal debate about whether we should establish a new brand in Europe - Dodge - and sell it through the existing Chrysler dealer network, or whether we should rebrand the vehicle," he said.
DaimlerChrysler rebranded the Dodge Viper supercar, which was sold as a Chrysler in Europe. But Schaum admits that rebadging is counter to DaimlerChrysler's new policy of giving each of its brands a clear distinction worldwide.
DaimlerChrysler would not rebrand the M80 as a Jeep, although Jeep marketed some small pickups in its past, said Jim Schroer, Chrysler's executive vice president of global sales and marketing.
"It is difficult to imagine the M80 as a Jeep," he said. "We will carefully extend the Jeep brand into the luxury direction, but the core brand message will always be that a Jeep is capable of the Rubicon Trail."
The Rubicon Trail is a legendary California mountain trail near Lake Tahoe that attracts serious off-road enthusiasts.
"It is easier to imagine taking Dodge as a brand to Europe than to rebrand the vehicles," Schroer said. "Our long-term global strategy is to have three brands within the Chrysler group, which are together under one dealer's roof, but in different showrooms."
DaimlerChrysler's study about whether to introduce Dodge in Europe is code-named Project Alpha. Its focus is on a low-investment approach for both dealers and manufacturer, Schroer said.
DaimlerChrysler in Stuttgart has already approved the use of the Dodge US advertising slogan "Grab life by the horns" in Europe. But Schroer said adaptations for individual countries would be made when necessary.