- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

DaimlerChrysler is building an image car for the Chrysler brand in Osnabrueck, Germany. The car is the Chrysler Crossfire, the concept 2-seater that left many auto show-goers drooling in Detroit in January.

The coupe will be a low-volume addition to the Chrysler Group stable of vehicles. It joins niche icons Dodge Viper and Chrysler (formerly Plymouth) Prowler, both of which are built by Motor City union members at Detroit's Conner Avenue assembly plant.

While the eventual phase-out of the Prowler would open room on the line at Conner assembly, the Crossfire coupe will be assembled by Karmann, the German car assembly specialist that builds about 50,000 car bodies a year, including the Mercedes CLK and Audi A4 convertible.

Crossfire will be the first Chrysler Group vehicle to be built in Germany since the 1998 merger that reduced Chrysler to a division of the German-incorporated DaimlerChrysler. It puts synergy on wheels and is tangible proof that sharing will in fact occur between Mercedes and Chrysler brands not just Chrysler and lower-rung Mitsubishi.

Crossfire will be built in 2003 on an all-new front-engine/rear-drive Chrysler platform known internally as CH24. Wolfgang Bernhard, Chrysler's chief operating officer, says it is not a shortened version of the next-generation Chrysler large car (Chrysler 300M and Concorde, Dodge Charger and Intrepid) platform, due in 2004, which most thought would be the first family of Chrysler products to benefit from Mercedes engineering. Rather, the Crossfire will come off a stand-alone platform, although it is expected to spawn other niche vehicles.

What CH24 does borrow, to lower costs, is the current Mercedes C-Class suspension and perhaps the rack and pinion steering as well. The carmaker looked at using the current Mercedes-Benz SLK platform, but had to rule it out because it couldn't accommodate wheels larger than 17 inches, a limitation Mr. Bernhard knows all too well from his days running AMG, the high-performance arm of Mercedes. Crossfire is expected to sport 19-inch wheels.

Shareholders and employees alike should applaud the company for adding a new product during a time of cutbacks and appreciate the business case that makes it possible. But enthusiasm may be muted by a nationalistic sense that a Chrysler halo vehicle should be built in the United States.

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