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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 10-13-2008, 02:26 PM Thread Starter
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Chrysler to Pick Partner to Develop Sebring Replacement

Decisions, Decisions: Chrysler to Pick Partner to Develop Sebring Replacement

October 13, 2008

When news leaked on Friday that Chrysler has been engaged in merger talks with cross-town rival GM for around a month, it sparked a massive debate on the merits of such a deal, with many on Wall Street concluding it was a bad idea. And now, as if the execs at Auburn Hills need any more to think about, word is Chrysler is still debating whether or not to partner with another automaker on a new global midsize car platform, and wants to make a decision by late winter.

Called "Project D," Chrysler's new platform program is developing a replacement for the current Sebring and Avenger for as early as 2011, as the automaker has acknowledged that its current midsize offerings are struggling in the market. However the company isn't sure whether it will develop the platform in-house or work with another automaker, though it has indicated it would prefer a partner. Saying Chrysler will make a final decision "in three, four, five months," CEO Bob Nardelli confirms the company is considering "two or three platform providers" for the project, but won't reveal exactly which automakers Auburn Hills is talking to.

In August rumors surfaced that the company's Project D partner would be Nissan, in an expansion of the current deal that will see the Japanese automaker build Chrysler's next global subcompact based on the Dodge Hornet concept. In addition Chrysler is building an even smaller, A-segment car with China's Great Wall Motor Company, and it's possible this agreement could expand to include a midsize vehicle as well. However while the automaker has confirmed that a new Charger, 300, and unibody Jeep Grand Cherokee will arrive in 2010, considering that it could potentially gain access to GM's midsize Epsilon platform if a merger goes through, Chrysler may still have a few more tricks up its sleeve when it comes to Project D.

While Nardelli won't speculate on his company's potential partners, Chrysler is saying that available powertrains on the new midsize offering could very well include an all-electric option, as well as a plug-in hybrid similar to the 2011 Chevy Volt. Auburn Hills recently unveiled two plug-in hybrids and an electric sports car called the Dodge EV.

Formed late last year, Project D is an entirely new type of program for Chrysler, putting members of the company's design, engineering, and marketing teams in one location and relying heavily on customer feedback for the car's development. Whether or not these changes will go by the wayside if Chrysler partners with another automaker, remains to be seen.

LINK:Decisions, Decisions: Chrysler to Pick Partner to Develop Sebring Replacement | Automotive News Blog - Wide Open Throttle


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