DETROIT SHOW: Chrysler wants Russia plant, not Europe
Newly-independent Chrysler Group still has no plans for a transplant production site to serve the major markets in Europe, despite vowing to double sales outside its heartland of North America.
Chrysler's proportion of international sales is the smallest of the Big Three and although it rose last year by 15% to 238,000, the number is still relatively small. And it still lags the 250,000 figure set as a strategic target after the Daimler-Chrysler merger.
"We're looking at a plant in Russia," says international sales boss Michael Manley, "but it will only service the fast-growing Russian market".
Manley says there may be limited exports to countries close to Russia, but the choice of models built at the factory is likely to limit export appeal further west.
Manley expects the Chrysler board to choose between two potential partners in Russia during the "first half of the year" with new production lines being commissioned early in 2009.
Manley confirmed previous reports that one of the potential partners is GAZ, who have installed the old Chrysler Sebring/Stratus line at its factory in Nizhny Novogrod and is selling the car badged as the Siber.
Which models Chrysler will build in Russia is still undecided, although it wants to cover as big a share of the market as possible. "The big opportunity in Russia is with B- and C-segment cars," says Manley, "and in the next two to five years those segments will grow considerably."