Chrysler-Chery minicar not ready for prime time

The deal between the troubled American maker Chrysler and China’s Chery has been a blustery, on-again, off-again affair, but the latest word has it still on track, despite some delays. Chinese-built Chrysler-branded Chery minicars will not be hitting U.S. roads in the very near future, but the deal is still progressing, with talks about Chrysler’s participation in the Chinese auto market at the forefront of current developments.

Just a week ago Chrysler revealed its partnership with Nissan, involving each building a vehicle for the other. The move is designed to help Chrysler expand its overseas markets and fill a gap in its readiness for U.S. CAFE standards with a Nissan-built small car, while offering Nissan its truck-building expertise in return.

The deal with Chery is built along similar lines, especially with Chrysler building up local production in China in the coming year. Chrysler’s aim is to become one of the top 10 players in the Chinese auto market, reports the Detroit News. Phil Murtaugh, Chrysler’s chief of Asia operations has set the top 10 goal for Chrysler, and thinks the deal with Chery will help the company to meet it.

Speaking to press at the Beijing auto show this weekend, Murtaugh said, «»We have no progress to report, but we really are satisfied with those discussions.» The problem is not with the agreement, it seems, but the product itself.

«Neither Chrysler nor Chery is comfortable that those products as they exist today meet the requirements of Chrysler, and we’re working together to make changes that we’re both happy with,» Murtaugh said.

«I don’t think we’re too far away, but neither one of us are ready to say ‘Let’s go’ yet. We’re working on making sure the product’s right.»

When the Chrysler-Chery joint car does make it to the U.S., it’s expected to be inexpensive, based on Chery’s A1 minicar and will probably be badged as a Dodge. There is also talk of Chery building an even smaller, less expensive car for developing markets like South America and Eastern Europe.

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