Tuesday, February 27, 2007

ChryslerDaimler is interested in small cars after all

Looks like Chrysler is smartening up. They have decided to go after the small car market after all. Albeit by partnering with a Chinese company who only pays its employees up to a whole $2 (USD) a day; looks like building a higher fuel efficiency compact automobile is not the only "efficiency" they have in mind. And, yes, Chery is the same company GM complained, not so long ago, that it had a deceptively confusing, trademark-infringing, name. Potential entrepreneurs take note, choosing a deceptively similar product or company name could eventually land you a large deal, or a partnership... with the the copyee's competitor.

Today's announcement:
PRESS RELEASE: Auburn Hills, Mich./Stuttgart, Germany, Feb 27, 2007 - The DaimlerChrysler Supervisory Board today approved the framework of a limited partnership to develop small vehicles between the Chrysler Group and Chery Motor Company of China. The deal is still contingent upon approval by the Chinese government, but the final pact of the framework is expected to be signed by the end of March. Under the non-equity partnership, Chery-built vehicles will be distributed under Chrysler brands, primarily in North America and Western Europe. Chrysler Group indicated that the partnership would allow the company to become a bigger player on the global automotive stage by giving it access to products in new segments more quickly, with less capital spending.

Small vehicles such as these will allow Chrysler Group brands to compete in segments in which the brands do not currently compete, and which are especially important in price- and fuel-economy sensitive markets. Some 67 percent of all vehicles sold outside of North America are in these segments. Chrysler Group’s major competitors in the U.S. and Western Europe have similar arrangements with Asian manufacturers for vehicles in these segments.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chrysler: The canary in the "big car" coal mine?

This week DaimlerChrysler announced some pretty significant job cuts. The affected plants are located in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Ontario -- speficially, those involved in the production of sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and other large vehicles. These types of vehicles, we're told by DaimlerChrysler, are just not selling as well as they used to. This is certainly not just a Chrysler-specific phenomenon. Rather, it is early evidence of the eventual move towards smaller vehicles in North America. Although the general public is not clamoring for small cars quite yet, there is an unmistakable trend towards higher fuel efficiency. This the first step. Unfortunaely for Chrysler, they are not very well positioned for the "small" future -- their smallest vehicle available is the PT Cruiser -- perhaps destining them to be just a small player in the auto field. There is currently a lot of buzz around about Daimler spinning off Chrysler, and business news headlines are filled with talk of potential buyouts or mergers (particular with GM). If I were a potential suitor looking at Chrysler, I would only value it as a future niche player; they are pretty good at making "pimp-mobiles" after all, such as the Chrysler 300 that's still a hot item in the hip-hop world.