TOKYO — Phil Murtaugh is trying to start quickly in his new job as CEO of Asia operations at Chrysler LLC. Besides handling Chrysler's deal to produce small cars with Chery Automobile Co., he is looking into other partners in China.
Murtaugh said there is "absolutely no doubt" that Chery will make cars for Chrysler. But the type of car and its brand have not been decided, he said here at the Tokyo motor show.
In early July in Beijing, Chrysler President Tom LaSorda said exports to the United States would begin in mid-2009. Murtaugh would not confirm that date.
"There is no date," he said. "There are discussions going on with Chery."
In July, Chrysler signed a memorandum of understanding with Chery to produce small cars for export. But the Chinese government has not given final approval for the partnership.
Sources say the first model to be exported will be the A1 small car, which is currently produced for the domestic market by Chery. The first exports will be to Latin America and Europe.
The A1 will likely not be exported to the United States because it is too small, Chery managers say.
Chrysler is also considering forming another manufacturing partnership in China, Murtaugh said.
"China is a huge market," he said. "China allows two joint ventures, and we are going to take advantage of that."
Chinese law allows foreign companies to form two joint ventures to build passenger vehicles and two to build commercial vehicles.
Chrysler produces Chrysler 300C sedans at the Beijing-Benz DaimlerChrysler Automotive Co. joint venture in Beijing. Chrysler-brand vans are produced under license by Southeast Motor Corp., a joint venture between Taiwan's China Motor Corp. and China's Fujian Motor Industry Group.
As for how Daimler and Chrysler will disentangle their assets in China, Murtaugh would only say "very carefully."