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Crossfire: the American sports coupe [made in Germany]. (WIP).

What you need to know about the 2004 Chrysler Crossfire is simply that it is probably the coolest car that will be priced in the mid-$30s that has ever been put on the market by an "American" company. OK. It is being put on the market by DaimlerChrysler, which is not a bona fide American company. In fact, the German heritage of the Crossfire is not being at all covered up or ignored by the people in Auburn Hills. In fact, it is openly admitted that the vehicle was developed with and is being built by Karmann in its plant in Osnabruck, Germany. (Karmann is also handling vehicles including the Audi A4 convertible, the Mercedes CLK convertible, and the New Beetle convertible.) What's more, 39% of the vehicle--mainly in the powertrain and axles (think SLK)--is Mercedes-based. (The term "adapted componentry" is used.) Chrysler intends to have 20,000 of the roadsters built each year when production is fully ramped up. Of that number, approximately 15% are going to be sold in non-U.S. markets, including vehicles tha t have the steering wheel on the right side.

The Crossfire is another of the fast product development programs that Chrysler has executed. First there was a concept car shown at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The following year, the production version was shown at the 2002 Los Angeles Auto Show. And 12 months later, there are real cars. As Larry Achram, vice president, Advance Vehicle Engineering for Chrysler puts it, "Oops, we've done it again," referring to the company's going from concept vehicles to real products (e.g., Dodge Viper, PT Cruiser). And people will undoubtedly find the Crossfire to be sexier than Britney Spears.

According to Art Anderson, senior manager, Advance Vehicle Engineering (the project leader), the program was a "multicultural, multinational, cross-Atlantic undertaking." He took 26 Lufthansa flights during development; he received a Christmas card from the airline.

Speed was achieved in large part through the implementation of a "Quality Gate" program. Essentially, this meant that the development team had to be in complete agreement at each milestone in the program, and that all previously established targets be achieved for that point in the development before they could proceed. Consequently, the progress was forward, not back and forth, plagued by the kinds of changes that are typical of automotive development programs.

Although it was a fast program, it wasn't easy. Anderson notes, for example, of the body panels: "Almost every sheet metal part is impossible to stamp." But by working with the people from Karmann and the engineers from the Daimler side of the house, the impossible became actual. It is suggested that now that that has been done, the stamping processes will be something that the people who are involved in making sheet metal for more mainstream Chryslers and Dodges will have as a benchmark. (Good luck!)

When asked why he thinks that the Crossfire is a quintessential American sports coupe. Trevor Creed, senior vice president, Product Design, points out such things as the trunk (which is not as utile as it might be given the boat-tail rear) and the center spine that bisects the vehicle right down the middle (assuming that you're looking at it from above): "No Europeans would do things like that."
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Author:Vasilash, Gary S.
Publication:Automotive Design & Production
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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