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Chrysler + Mitsubishi again?

by David Zatz on

mitsubishi mirageCould Chrysler and Mitsubishi be getting back together again?

Back in the 1970s, Chrysler started on a plan to acquire the Japanese automaker, which never quite took off as its brethren did. Mitsubishi did teach Chrysler quite a bit about better assembly methods during the 1980s, according to some insiders, and in return Chrysler sold its cars, launched a joint venture (now owned by Mitsubishi alone), and allegedly fixed its valve-guide problems. But with Chrysler’s renaissance in the 1990s, the companies split up.

Until Daimler purchased Chrysler and a large chunk of Mitsubishi; then the Grand Plan was for Mitsubishi to design the small cars, Mercedes the large ones, and Chrysler, the minivans and Rams. That plan resulted mainly in the Caliber/Compass/Patriot and Sebring/Avenger sedans; Mitsubishi was eventually rescued by Japanese firms which bought Daimler out.

According to “Mr. Source,” the current tie-up is to take place in Mexico. Until recently, Chrysler sold smaller Hyundais under its own name, without even changing the logo in the grille, but Hyundai has decided to set up its own dealer network, leaving Dodge dealers with a product gap.

Fiat’s 500 has not been selling well there, and Alfa Romeo has not caught on; we earlier reported that at least one Fiat was ready to be rebadged as a Chrysler and sold in place of the Hyundai i10, but it now appears that, due to resistance among car buyers, Mitsubishi may fill the gap instead.

While Mitsubishi already sells cars in Mexico, many of their dealers are also Chrysler dealers, presumably due to the companies’ earlier alliances; this would make servicing easier. The current plan appears to be for Mitsubishi to bring in new models, not yet sold in Mexico, and badge them as Dodges.

The deal could help to bolster Chrysler sales and give dealers “staples” so they can have more ready cash to invest in facilities and advertising, while the company builds up its product line. It’s also possible that at least one Fiat will share the floor with the Mitsubishis, and that the leaders of Chrysler de México will simply let the two imports fight it out.

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