Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chrysler product chief says could cut more models

By Kevin Krolicki


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Chrysler LLC could cut more vehicles from its line-up as it restructures its dealer network and shifts more showrooms to superstores that handle all three of its brands, the automaker's product development chief said on Wednesday.

Frank Klegon, the company's executive vice president of product development, said plans to stop production of four slow-selling models marked the start of a process to eliminate overlap between the Chrysler and Dodge brands.

Privately held Chrysler said this month it would eliminate shifts at five North American assembly plants and stop making the Dodge Magnum wagon, the convertible version of the PT Cruiser, the Pacifica crossover utility and the Crossfire sports car.

"There's nothing (more) in the near term, but we'll continue to look at it," Klegon told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Detroit Auto Show.

Chrysler's decision to eliminate the four vehicle models and cut up to 10,000 U.S. factory jobs over the next 14 months angered critics in the United Auto Workers union who said a four-year labor contract that was narrowly ratified last month did not go far enough to protect U.S. factory jobs.

Analysts had largely praised the move as a way for Chrysler, now owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management (CBS.UL: Quote, Profile, Research), to invest more competitively in developing and marketing a smaller number of models.

In the past, Chrysler rolled out a Dodge-branded mid-size sedan, the Avenger, to satisfy Dodge dealers asking for a mid-size equivalent of its Chrysler Sebring that they could sell in showrooms limited to the Dodge brand.

The Chrysler Aspen, a full-size sport utility vehicle, was intended to give Chrysler dealers an equivalent of the Dodge Durango, Klegon said. Continued...2 | 3

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