The component decisions in Chrysler group cars and trucks will take future cues from two new cars from the company: the upcoming Chrysler Pacifica and the rear-wheel-drive Magnum wagon.
The 2004 Pacifica is an indication of what Chrysler's future interiors will look like, and the Magnum indicates the automaker's plans to share more components with Mercedes-Benz vehicles, said Wolfgang Bernard, Chrysler group COO.
Bernhard, speaking at the J.D. Power and Associates Automotive International Roundtable on Friday morning, said Chrysler will overhaul the interiors of all of its products over the next few years. He said the Pacifica indicates the design direction, with what he called "bright colors and nice craftsmanship."
"Is the vehicle expressive? Does it stand out from everybody else?" Bernhard asked, raising the questions that will decide the future look.
At the same time, he said the sort of component sharing that went into the Magnum will be more common in future products.
He said 20 percent of the Magnum's components come from other Mercedes vehicles.
Such component sharing has long been envisioned. In fact, the Pacifica uses a rear suspension supplied from Mercedes' parts bin. The common parts include the transmission, rear suspension and electrical architecture.
Steve Girsky, a managing director with Morgan Stanley in New York, said redesigning vehicle interiors could become a new way for automakers to revitalize their brand image.
"A lot of people are looking into this," Girsky told Automotive News at the J.D. Power event. "It's a way to differentiate your products. Interiors can be changed more frequently than powertrains or sheet metal, and it can be done at lower cost."
Component issues loom large in Chrysler's unfolding business plan. The automaker is negotiating with provincial authorities in Ontario about building an assembly plant in Windsor to build its M-80 pickup, which would be directed at Generation Y buyers. Parts makers will locate inside that plant, if built, and a single major interior supplier is expected to oversee the truck's complete interior.
Such a contract could represent hundreds of millions of dollars a year to an interior integrator.