Initially Nissan is assembling a compact car based on the Versa model at its plant in Mexico for sale by Chrysler in Brazil and Argentina. But when asked whether the deal could lead to a similar arrangement at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, Chrysler’s vice-president of global operations Thomas Hausch said: “I would be a fool to rule anything out.”
He said Chrysler sales grew 6% in Europe last year against an overall market growth of just 1%, though UK sales fell. But overall European growth compounded over the past three years have grown by 50%. “UK had some delays with right-hand drive models – we haven’t launched the Dodge Avenger yet, and the Jeep Wrangler came late in the year. “I’m very positive we’ll sell more cars in the UK in 2008 than we did in 2007,” he added.
A problem has been the rapid expansion of the range, from six cars to 18, which has meant UK dealers have been on a steep learning curve to stay on top of the product range. “We will see more range advertising in the UK to tell consumers we have such a wide range,” he said.
A major launch next year will be the Dodge Journey crossover, which will compete with the Ford S-Max in an emerging sector. He’s looking to emulate the sales success of Caliber, Chrysler 300C and Jeep Grand Cherokee, whose combined were around 100,000 units last year. “It might be just at the right time,” Hausch said.