Chrysler's next generation of small and mid-sized cars will be developed from a single flexible Mitsubishi platform, rather than two as originally planned.
The new plan shows how closely Chrysler and Mitsubishi product development and future are intertwined in North America. But it has virtually no effect on European product plans for Mitsubishi or any other part of the DaimlerChrysler group. DaimlerChrysler owns a 37 percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors.
As recently as January, Chrysler and Mitsubishi executives said they planned to use two Mitsubishi platforms for the North American cars. But late last month, they decided to use just one.
The decision to use a single platform will reduce Chrysler's vehicle development costs. And it will let Chrysler produce a wide range of models on the same assembly line, matching production with consumer demand.
The companies chose Mitsu-bishi Motors' redesigned Lancer platform for the next-generation Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Neon and Dodge Stratus. Other unnamed vehicles will also be developed from the platform.
In Europe, Chrysler and Mitsubishi operate more independently. Mitsubishi will build a new small car based on its NCC platform at NedCar in Born, the Netherlands, starting in 2004. Chrysler no longer produces lower-medium cars such as the PT Cruiser in Europe and imports only small numbers of sedans. Last year, Chrysler sold 4,326 Neons, 3,885 Sebrings and 23,364 PT Cruisers in western Europe.
In North America, the redesigned Neon is expected to debut in 2005, followed a year later by the redesigned Sebring and Stratus. The redesigned PT Cruiser will debut in 2005 or 2006.
"What we are looking at is a stretched smaller platform, taking the C-segment platform and widening it slightly, lengthening it slightly and turning it into a D. They are essentially based on the same architecture," said Chrysler spokesman Mike Aberlich.
A vehicle platform is a common set of components from which a variety of vehicles can be built. Such components may include the floorpan, drivetrain and suspension, as well as common locating points for body assembly.
Chrysler will realize major savings in vehicle development and assembly processes.
"We're going to do much more product differentiation in the future, and with this fragmenting market, you are probably going to see more variety as well," said Lawrence Achram, Chrysler vice president of advanced vehicle engineering. The business plan is to make money on lower volume per model, but "keep [plant] capacity full by having more stuff," he added.
-- Wim Oude Weernink contributed