ME-412 Could Live On Without Bernhard
2004 Chrysler ME412 conceptA decision on the future of Chrysler's high-performance concept vehicle, the ME-412 supercar, is likely to be made in the next few months. "Within this year, we should be able to come to some conclusion," Chrysler Group CEO Dieter Zetsche told TheCarConnection,com during an interview this week. A running version of the two-seat supercar was recently rolled out for testing at the Laguna Seca raceway, on California's Monterey Peninsula, and as Zetsche proudly noted, it lived up to many of the pronouncements made when the ME-412 concept was previewed last January. Even though the hand-built prototype was limited to about 75 percent of its rated power, it easily launched from 0-to-60 mph in less than 3.0 seconds. There had been expectations the supercar project would be scrubbed after the departure of former Chrysler Chief Operating Officer Wolfgang Bernhard, who'd personally spearheaded the program. But the project has acquired a new patron saint, DaimlerChrysler Chairman Juergen Schrempp, who has been closely following the ME-412's progress in recent weeks. "We can count on the total support" of Schrempp, Zetsche said, if a solid business case can be made for the high-performance sports car. But while Chrysler engineers appear comfortable they can deliver on spec, the question becomes whether the ME-412 is right for Chrysler and can be counted on to pay its own way. Though it would certainly "spotlight" the brand, Zetsche cautioned that he would not justify the effort by charging it off "as marketing costs." The ME-412 would have to be a profit center, and that means coming up with the right balance of costs, volume and price. "It would be great if it were viable," said the Chrysler CEO, but "I don't know right now." If given the go-ahead, the ME-412 will be an outsourced project, stressed Zetsche. Outside suppliers, such as MSX and Roush, did much of the work on the prototype, and "it's an absolute given," said Zetsche, "if we did it, we would not do it in-house." -TCC Team
2004 Chrysler ME412 conceptEnlarge Photo
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