CHICAGO — Chrysler will spin a variety of vehicle types off its new mid-sized global vehicle platform, including sedans, hatchbacks, crossovers and small pickups.
"It has to be a pretty flexible platform," said Frank Klegon, Chrysler's head of product development, in an interview at the Chicago Auto Show.
"We set up a small group. We're calling it Project D, to take a look at the next generation" mid-sized platform, said Klegon. They are "taking a look at worldwide demand — it is one of the largest segments worldwide. That segment breeds a lot of offspring."
Chrysler created the mid-sized team in December as part of a realignment of its product organization. Michael Donoughe, an engineer with experience in both front- and rear-drive platforms, heads the team.
Project D is made up of engineers, product planners and program managers, as well as purchasing and international business managers. Klegon expects the group to make recommendations by June.
Klegon said the team's job is to come up with a strategy — not plan and execute a new platform.
"They have to look at where we ought to go with the next midsegment cars," he said. "That goes from taking an existing platform and building upon it, to designing a new platform. It could be front-wheel drive; it could be rear-wheel drive; it could be the ability to switch."
The group will consider where in the world the vehicles should be built and will recommend whether Chrysler should partner with another automaker.
"All those things are on the table with no preconceived answer to the question," said Klegon. He said the first vehicles will arrive in five to six years.
The pickup based on the platform would be a lifestyle truck, he said. The Honda Ridgeline falls into that category. Automakers are scrutinizing this strategy because the small- and mid-sized truck market is declining, he said. They also are looking at light-weight pickups that offer better fuel economy.
"Everybody is hunting down this formula," Klegon said. "What is that substitute? Is it a smaller body-on-frame? Is it unibody? Can it be front drive? Can it just carry 1,000 pounds? We don't know yet." c