Asian automakers have a huge advantage over those in North America for making small B-segment cars, according to Chrysler group president and chief executive officer Tom La Sorda.


In an interview with Chrysler’s inhouse blog website, TheFirehouse, about the deal for the US automaker to distribute Chery-made small cars in North America and Europe, La Sorda said: “We’re talking about a B-segment, which is a very small compact car, and if you look at the US market or even in NAFTA, all the B-segment vehicles are being imported from the Asia region. The major reason is their cost structure and their ability to engineer and design in those segments. And we really cannot compete nor can anyone making it in this region.”


He denied Chrysler was exporting jobs to China saying: this (the Chery deal) will have no impact …”because we’re not even involved in the B-segment today.”


He said Chrysler was both building cars – such as the 300 in China – and exporting a large percentage of the components of these cars: “the engines, the transmissions and major high-cost parts that are made by Americans and Canadians primarily are being shipped over to these markets for us in China.


“I tell you, there are a lot of jobs being preserved by our growth in China and our exports there.”


La Sorda is confident the Chery-sourced cars – which will compete with the likes of the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit (Jazz) from Japan and the Nissan Versa from Mexico – will be built with quality that will satisfy North American consumers.


“Our role here is to ensure that our engineering and design and quality teams are working with Chery along the way to meet the stringent standards, not only in North America but around the world. And that teamwork will continue throughout this project.”


Asked if the Chery deal was the end of the Hornet, the small concept car shown at Geneva last year, La Soeda said: “The Hornet is… something that we’re going to continue to take a look at, and depending on the business case going, we’ll look at that independently from this particular project.”


He noted that US consumers, who have been shunning the Chrysler Group’s pickup trucks, minivans and SUVs due to high petrol prices are “quite frankly, just looking for choice, and the fact that the Chrysler Group doesn’t even play in this segment, it’s very important that we do.


“This is important for our growth here, but not only here in the NAFTA region – and I’m talking Canada, Mexico and the United States – but the European markets and other growth areas, where the growth is going. We need to follow with a cross-section of great cars and trucks across our whole portfolio. That’s why we need this in this region as well. Our attempt here will help us in this region because the [fuel economy] of this car will be exceptionally good and we’re looking forward to this coming in to help us as this segment is growing in this region and we just need to play a part.”