DETROIT -- If Chrysler LLC can survive its financial crisis, it will emerge as a boutique enterprise along the lines of Germany's premium carmakers, co-President Jim Press said in an interview last week.
He suggested that Chrysler could show the way to a sustainable model for a smaller U.S. auto industry.
"If there's one company in America that can build high-craftsmanship, innovative vehicles, it's Chrysler," Press said.
Chrysler will build vehicles that have premium features but are affordable to consumers. Press said the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup signals the company's direction.
"If Mercedes-Benz built a pickup truck, that's what it would be," said Press, who came to Chrysler in 2007 after three decades with Toyota.
He said Chrysler is making premium vehicles from the ground up, while "GM and Ford are making basic cars and 'gingerbreading' them up to premium."
Press said he saw a prototype of the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, due in 2010. He said it had the most rigid body and best suspension of any vehicle he has seen.
"We're going to be a smaller, more focused company," Press said. "We could be the Mercedes or BMW of America."
The company already has swallowed some tough medicine, Press said, slashing production, closing plants, laying off 32,000 workers and cutting unprofitable models. The plan was working until the credit crisis hit last summer, he said.
Press said Chrysler's next generation of vehicles will demonstrate "what America could become if we could buy the time."
(Source: Automotive News)