BEIJING -- DaimlerChrysler will assemble Chrysler-brand cars in a new Beijing Jeep plant, initially assembling kits, supplier sources say.
The model has not been decided, but likely candidates are cars from the LH platform, which were sold in the United States as the Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde and LHS.
DaimlerChrysler would not confirm that Chrysler brands are coming here. "We are always looking for opportunities, but there has been no decision for Chryslers to be assembled here," said Trevor Hale, spokesman for DaimlerChrysler China.
Chrysler brands could be a lifesaver for DaimlerChrysler in China if its relationship with Mitsubishi continues to unravel.
Beijing Jeep Corp., a DaimlerChrysler joint venture with Beijing Automotive Industry Corp, was counting on Mitsubishi brands for models to fill a new plant. The factory should be completed by 2006 with an initial capacity of 80,000 units.
Two Mitsubishi nameplates, the Outlander and Pajero, already account for more than half of Beijing Jeep's sales, which surged 339 percent to 7,700 units compared with the first quarter of 2003.
Rather than rely on an uncertain future, Chrysler could become Beijing Jeep's new volume brand. But bringing in an out-of-production LH model carries risks. Chinese consumers resent being sold anything but the most recent model. As avid readers of automotive magazines and Web sites, they know what the recent models are.
Last year, DaimlerChrysler imported about 1,000 Chrysler-brand cars into China, mostly Grand Voyagers. It will begin importing the 300C and Crossfire in August or September.
Automakers often begin importing models of cars that they plan to produce in China to seed the market. And the China market needs plenty of exposure to the Chrysler name.
Chrysler would be marketed as a stand-alone brand in China, said Li Bing, senior manager of imports in the Chrysler division of DaimlerChrysler China.