Monday, March 31, 2008

Chrysler: Any deal for partner would be done by Cerberus

Bradford Wernle
Automotive News

NEW YORK — If Chrysler LLC gets a global partner, as many experts suggest the company should, the job of handling those talks would be up to Cerberus Capital Management.

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli said he and his colleagues in the office of the chairman — co-presidents Jim Press and Tom LaSorda — are in charge of running the company's day-to-day operations. Cerberus, the New York private equity firm that owns 80.1 percent of Chrysler, would be the dealmaker.

No such talks are going on at present, Nardelli told journalists at the New York auto show this month.

But Chrysler continues to pursue regional alliances and build regional engineering centers. Those jobs are being handled by the company's executive team. LaSorda is in charge of setting up regional alliances and building the engineering centers.

Chrysler plans to build or expand four regional centers as it tries to boost market share outside North America. Nardelli said the centers will handle design, engineering, distribution and parts sourcing. Regions include Mexico, China, eastern Europe and southern Asia.

Chrysler is rapidly building up the engineering centers. The engineering office in Mexico City is now fully staffed with 230 to 250 people, said Frank Klegon, executive vice president for product development.

Chrysler also is moving its China engineering office, with a staff of about 50, from Beijing to Shanghai. And Klegon visited eastern Europe in mid-March to scout possible sites in Poland and Romania. The company also is looking at Russia.

Klegon declined to say how soon a small car made by Chery Automobile Co. in China might be ready for North America. Chrysler is working on a wide range of products with Chery.

Chrysler also has a partnership with Nissan, which will manufacture Versa subcompacts for Chrysler in Latin American markets starting next year.

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