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Former Chrysler exec shows new chassis concept

by Bill Cawthon on

A former Chrysler executive has unveiled what he describes as a solution for automakers challenged by requirements to improve fuel efficiency and reduce vehicle weight.

Chris Theodore, best known to Chrysler fans for his work on the Dodge Viper, PT Cruiser and Chrysler minivans, has developed a new chassis concept he says will offer lower cost, weight savings, and will make electric vehicles more economically viable. Theodore’s automotive consulting company, Theodore & Associates, is showing the new Uni-Chassis at the SAE World Congress this week.

With Dearborn’s blessing, the Uni-Chassis uses the powertrain and suspension from the Ford GT. Theodore says it eliminates the need for a frame by connecting front and rear powertrain and suspension components to a rigid backbone. Production cars typically have a unitized body or body-on-frame construction. The Uni-Chassis also supports battery packs without the need for an additional support structure. Theodore says he is looking for feedback from three specific manufacturing areas: specialty vehicles, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, and battery-electric vehicles.

Theodore spent 12 years with Chrysler as a product executive before joining Ford Motor Co. in 1999. During his time at Chrysler, he worked as a product manager on a number of projects, including the PT Cruiser. Of the Cruiser, he once wrote: Chris Theodore wrote, “The PT Cruiser was unloved by management, and suffered from benign neglect. We had to fight the chairman to get the program approved. Many other models were planned, but never came to fruition. Other than Brian Nesbitt, Design hated the car because they felt their job was to move the state-of-the-art forward, whether the customer likes it or not.”

Theodore left Chrysler before the “merger of equals” and went to Ford where he became North American product chief and vice president of advanced product creation. After his 2004 retirement from Ford, he became a CEO; first at supplier ASC Inc. then at Mustang-tuner Saleen Inc. He opened his own consulting firm in 2009.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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