Chrysler says RP in sight for CKD facility

By Dennis D. Estopace

AIMING to muscle a way into a burgeoning Southeast Asian market, the United States’ Number 4 carmaker Chrysler is firming up plans to put up two assembly plants in the region and the Philippines is one of the candidate-locations.

“That [putting up two production facilities] is high in our priority,” Peter MacKenzie told the BusinessMirror a day after Chrysler launched its multipurpose utility van Journey on Thursday last week.

MacKenzie, Chrysler South East Asia Pte. Ltd. managing director, explained they are expecting volume sales in the region to go up even as North American car sales continue to slide.

Chrysler separated from its German business partners after the era of cheap gasoline further added pressure for the Big Four carmakers to shift to smaller cars and engines sipping less fuel.

MacKenzie said the new Journey is one step that shows the carmaker is moving into the fuel-efficient engine market.

“We have to move faster in selling small engines. Journey is our first step,” said MacKenzie, a veteran of the pre- and post-Daimler Chrysler.

The six-cylinder 2.7-liter Journey was launched first in the Philippines among the nine countries under MacKenzie’s purview. The other countries under MacKenzie’s responsibility are: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

He said they are targeting a hundred units sold by September next year.

The completely built-up Journey unit is transported from Chrysler’s plant in Auburn Hills, Michigan to the West Coast and shipped to the region.

MacKenzie said having assembly plants for left- and right-hand drive automobiles in the region could give Chrysler an advantage.

“With the US economy suffering, there is a need for us to develop our international market base. That’s one of the reasons why we’re putting a lot on this model [Journey].”

The Chrysler executive added that with Mercedes Benz-maker Daimler’s separation, Chrysler was also forced to establish separate operations centers in the markets the formerly-wed companies were operating in.

In evaluating the possible locations for the assembly plants, MacKenzie said they are considering the tax and duty structures, incentives, and infrastructure available in each country before deciding where to put up the facilities for complete knock-down units.

He noted a roll-on, roll-off port in the Philippines could be a plus point.

Another country MacKenzie said Chrysler is evaluating is Vietnam.

“The locations are being considered for the long-term because we believe the market and volume segments are here in the region.”

Putting up such facilities make sense for Chrysler that plans to put up a $1.6-billion transmission manufacturing plant for the fuel-efficient Phoenix engine, according to MacKenzie.

“We have very, very good technology coming, that is in line with the market trends,” he added.