News

Chrysler, Chery make it official First cars to US by 2009

Chrysler group president and CEO Tom LaSorda and Chery Automobile Company chairman and president Yin Tongyue have finally put it down in writing — the companies will collaborate to produce vehicles for world markets including North America.

“This is the start of a long relationship between Chrysler and Chery,” said LaSorda during the signing ceremony in Beijing at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

“Chery’s participation in this agreement and its focus on small and subcompact cars will have a nearly immediate effect on Chrysler Group’s offerings in the small-vehicle segments. This strategic partnership is part of a new business model that’s allowing us to introduce all-new products more quickly, with less capital spending.”

The agreement calls for the companies to work together in a fast-moving effort to develop, produce, and distribute Chery-built cars in North America, Europe, and other major markets under the Chrysler Group brands. The first cars will be small, subcompact vehicles — a segment where Chrysler is in dire need of product — so any Chery-built Jeeps likely would be out of the question in the short term. But expect to see Chrysler and/or Dodge-branded Cherys exported to the U.S. as early as 2009.

According to a report on the Automotive News Web site, the first cars could come to Latin America and Eastern Europe as early as next summer. The initial vehicle reportedly will be a version of the Chery A1 (pictured is a body-kitted A1 we caught at this April’s Shanghai auto show) and will be badged a Dodge, but it won’t come to North America or Western Europe.

Instead, Chrysler says it’s in the process of identifying several small cars under development by Chery and will work with Chery to make the necessary branding and regulatory modifications for the vehicles to pass muster in Western Europe and North America especially. In addition, the company’s plan to work on all-new small-vehicle development is moving forward.

Given the recent much-publicized problems the Chinese-made Brilliance BS6 sedan has had with crashworthiness testing in Western Europe, Chrysler would be well advised to make any Chery-built car as bulletproof as possible out of the gate. It’ll be another big test for the company,; in the process of being sold amidst negotiations with Chery.

Chrysler’s relationship with China began 25 years ago when it formed Beijing Jeep Corporation, which the automaker hails as the first international automotive joint venture in the country.

So now that it’s official, what’s your take on this move by Chrysler?