GENEVA -- The Chrysler group will decide this year whether to produce the Dodge Hornet subcompact concept it unveiled here last week, and it is considering Asian and European automakers as joint-venture partners.
Chrysler group CEO Tom LaSorda disclosed at the Geneva auto show that Volkswagen, already a Chrysler partner, is one of the candidates. VW will begin sourcing a minivan from Chrysler in 2008.
Chrysler is expanding the Dodge brand globally and needs an entry-level vehicle that it can sell worldwide. The front-drive, five-door hatchback is just 8.3 inches longer than a Mini and about the same width as the Dodge Caliber.
The Hornet has a tall, spacious interior and rear seats that fold flat.
The Caliber will go on sale this spring outside the United States and eventually will be sold in 98 countries.
The Hornet is powered by a supercharged, 170-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.
U.S. Dodge dealers have been asking for an entry-level car that would be positioned below the Caliber. The Caliber's sticker price is $13,985, including shipping.
Speaking of the B-car segment that the Hornet is aimed at, LaSorda said: "It is a segment we would like to get in if we can make money. (But) we would only be able to do that with a partner that has an architecture that meets North American and European safety and emission standards."
LaSorda said Chrysler is in talks with potential European and Asian partners.
"I told our teams to keep talking to people where we can make money," LaSorda said. "If we can't, let's just walk and move on to something else."
LaSorda said a decision on whether to proceed with Hornet "definitely" would be reached before the end of the year.
You may e-mail Rick Kranz at [email protected]