Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chrysler Ready To Share the Hemi?

Nissan's new deal with Chrysler may allow the Titan to share the robust Hemi engine. (Photo courtesy of Nissan Motors Corporation Inc.)

Portugal — Nissan announced last month that it's made a deal with Chrysler to build the next-generation Titan pickup at a Chrysler plant in Mexico. The question on our lips was simple: Does that mean the future Titan will get the famous Hemi V8?

The matter of whether the next Titan and Chrysler's Ram will share engines is "still being worked out," William J. Krueger, Nissan North America Inc.'s senior vice president for manufacturing, purchasing and supply chain management for The Americas, told Inside Line at a recent media event here.

Krueger concedes that Chrysler's invested heavily to build the Hemi's brand equity and may not be willing to share the engine, even though the next-generation Titan will be built on the same architecture as the new-for-'09 Dodge Ram coming this fall. Although Krueger will not comment further, other than to say of engine-sharing between the two trucks, "Initially, maybe it doesn't make sense," speculators have suggested Nissan may have insisted on the Hemi as part of the deal — despite the fact that Nissan developed its own 5.4-liter V8 for the Titan.

One of the main reasons Nissan wanted to build the next-gen Titan on the Ram chassis was to broaden the number of configurations for the Titan, which currently is limited to a single engine — the 5.4-liter V8 — and just two body styles. So it's likely the next Titan will have access, at the very least, to Chrysler V6s, which have nothing like the dominating market presence of the Hemi.

Krueger says the Chrysler-built Titan, slated for a 2011 launch, will have Nissan-specific sheet metal and most of the consumer "touch points" will be unique to Nissan as well. The Titan will be built at Chrysler's assembly plant in Saltillo, Mexico.

What this means to you: If Chrysler gives Nissan access to the Hemi, it's another indication that V8 dominance is coming to an end — or private-equity-owned Chrysler is past the point of caring. — Bill Visnic, senior editor, Edmunds AutoObserver

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