DETROIT -- Chrysler group CEO Dieter Zetsche sees clear sailing ahead with Haden International Group at the Jeep assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio.
In September, Haden replaced Durr Industries Inc. in negotiations to become one of three suppliers that together will operate the Chrysler group's Jeep Wrangler plant in Toledo.
"We still haven't signed the contract with Haden, which is no surprise given the time that we started to go for the final negotiations," Zetsche said in an interview with Automotive News last week.
"I have basically no doubt," he said, "that we will come to a full agreement with a signed contract very soon."
Durr was one of the three suppliers Chrysler named in August.
The automaker said then that the three would invest in the Jeep complex and run the paint, body and chassis operations.
The joint assembly operation is the first of its type in the United States. Haden, if it comes on board, will paint the bodies. Kuka Group will weld the vehicle bodies. Hyundai Mobis will assemble the chassis.
The three suppliers will invest a total of $300 million. The companies will not detail specific investments.
Zetsche would not say what caused the split with Durr beyond blaming a contract impasse.
"Rather than significantly modifying our contract for Toledo," he said, "we modified the name of the partner."
Production under the new arrangement is scheduled to begin with assembly of a redesigned Wrangler in May 2006.
The UAW will bargain separate agreements with each of the suppliers.
Chrysler will extend what it learns in Toledo to more plants, Zetsche said.
"Significant parts of what we do in Toledo we might apply in another situation where we continue to own the paint shop ourselves," he said. "It will be one tool in our toolbox for the future."
You may e-mail Mary Connelly at