As easy as ABC for Chrysler

Think­ing small is the new big thing, writes NEIL McDON­ALD IF YOU LOOK AT OUR PORT­FO­LIO, WE HAVE NO SMALL CARS

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

WHEN Cerberus Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment group as­sumed con­trol of Chrysler, an­a­lysts ex­pected it would ‘‘strip it and flip it’’, ac­cord­ing to Chrysler LLC Asia Pa­cific chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Phil Mur­taugh. But that has not been the case, he says. ‘‘Many private-eq­uity com­pa­nies are ac­cused of that,’’ he says.

But Cerberus, de­scribed as a hedge fund cum private eq­uity firm, has ex­hib­ited a strong com­mit­ment to the brand’s fu­ture.

Mur­taugh, a Gen­eral Mo­tors vet­eran in the US and China, says Chrysler’s pri­or­ity is to de­velop a range of A, B and C cars — light, small and medium-seg­ment cars — for the world.

‘‘If you look at our port­fo­lio we have no small cars,’’ he says. ‘‘The Dodge Cal­iber is the only C-seg­ment car and it’s a C-plus car.’’

Chrysler has en­tered a strate­gic co-op­er­a­tion pro­gram with Chi­nese car­maker Ch­ery and in­tends to ad­dress those seg­ments.

‘‘Spe­cific plat­forms — that haven’t been an­nounced— have been iden­ti­fied to form the ba­sis of that co-op­er­a­tion and de­vel­op­ment of what’s called ‘top-hats’ off those plat­forms,’’ he says.

The Dodge Hor­net was one op­por­tu­nity talked about, but Mur­taugh says it is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

‘‘The high­est pri­or­ity in Chrysler is that 92 per cent of our busi­ness is in the US,’’ he says. ‘‘We have to get that busi­ness in or­der.

‘‘As we’re do­ing that, we have to make that 92 turn into 50, so you have to fig­ure out how to be very suc­cess­ful in China. That’s our sec­ond pri­or­ity.

‘‘The third pri­or­ity is prob­a­bly emerg­ing mar­kets in which we don’t op­er­ate to­day, and which have huge po­ten­tial — In­dia, Rus­sia, East­ern Europe, Latin Amer­ica.’’

Aus­tralia is also a strong fo­cus for Mur- taugh, who says there is a great deal of scope for lo­cal growth.

‘‘We’re not con­tem­plat­ing lo­cal pro­duc­tion in the in­ter­me­di­ate fu­ture but this is a huge im­port mar­ket for us. It’s the most im­por­tant im­port mar­ket in Asia. So this is a ‘main­tain and grow’ sec­tor,’’ he says.

‘‘If we can de­velop good B and C cars for Aus­tralia, you’ll see the po­ten­tial for 20 per cent sales gains year on year for quite some time.’’

Chrysler Aus­tralia cov­ers Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge. Last year it sold 10,885 ve­hi­cles, a 19 per cent lift on 2006. But a break­down of each brand shows Chrysler’s 3059 sales last year was down 15.3 per cent on 2006.

East­ern prom­ise: the Dodge Hor­net is one pos­si­bil­ity still be­ing dis­cussed for the Chi­nese mar­ket.

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