DETROIT — Chrysler LLC's plans to use fuel-saving dual-clutch transmissions in its vehicles are in jeopardy because of the credit crunch.
Chrysler has sued Getrag Transmission Manufacturing LLC, alleging that the German supplier failed to raise up to $300 million in debt financing necessary to build and equip a Tipton County, Ind., plant that was to build the advanced gearboxes. The plant was supposed to open in the fall of 2009.
Getrag was expected to be Chrysler's sole source of dual-clutch transmissions in the United States. The dispute puts the project in question, said Chrysler spokesman David Elshoff. A Getrag spokeswoman declined to comment.
A dual-clutch transmission saves fuel because it has two clutch sets inside the transmission that allow faster shifts. The gearbox also offers an automatic-shifting option.
Chrysler uses Getrag dual-clutch transmissions made in Germany on the European version of its Dodge Journey crossover. The automaker also plans to use the transmissions in Europe on the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger sedans.
Chrysler has not disclosed which U.S. vehicles would get the gearboxes.
Under the partnership, Chrysler had agreed to be the main customer for the 700,000 transmissions built annually at the plant. The plant's total cost originally was estimated at about $530 million. About 1,200 Chrysler employees were to staff the plant.
The complaint says Chrysler had agreed to a price increase on the transmissions to get Getrag to sign a definitive agreement for the project. Getrag had balked at the agreement and briefly stopped work at the construction site in December 2007, the lawsuit says.
Chrysler alleges that Getrag had assured Chrysler that it could raise the debt financing but did not make a good-faith effort to get the money.
The lawsuit indicates that Getrag had sought to line up the money from German banks, as long as the German government guaranteed the debt.
Chrysler argues that it should have been informed of that condition before signing the definitive agreement. The lawsuit says the German government would only guarantee the debt if Chrysler set up a $300 million escrow account to assure repayment.