Chrysler and Daimler have been divorced for nearly three years, but the two automakers are still very much entwined when it comes to product. The Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and Dodge Challenger use a platform and several components sourced from Daimler. Chrysler's short-term product plans include more Daimler DNA in the the Mercedes-Benz M-Class architecture that forms the basis for the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango underpinnings.
Unfortunately for the Pentastar, Daimler doesn't seem to want to play parts pimp for its former underling, as it is shorting the company of vital components required to continue operations. In August, Chrysler filed suit against Daimler because the German automaker was withholding parts like torque converters and steering columns. That suit has reportedly been settled, but now Chrysler alleges that the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee launch is now in jeopardy. As such, Chrysler has filed a second suit to force Daimler to provide rear axles and other components in a timely fashion, stating that the company needs the parts to build new Grand Cherokee models for testing in advance of the vehicle's May launch.
Daimler spokesman Han Tjan reportedly told The Detroit News that his company feels the situation could be handled outside the courts, but Chrysler doesn't seem inclined to agree. It appears Chrysler is trying to hedge its bets by filing suit, as company spokesman Michael Palese told the News that the company needs the parts in the next 20 days and the company wants Daimler to finalize the contract to supply the parts. Palese added, "Chrysler has too much at stake to take a chance. These are important vehicle programs at a critical point in their launch cycle. We can't afford any delays."
This parts battle is part of a larger war (so to speak) between Daimler and Chrysler over diesel engines. Daimler wants $80 million from Chrysler to cover expenses the former incurred when Chrysler didn't purchase as many diesel engines as expected from Daimler to service the overseas market. Daimler wants the $80 million as a make-good for the lost volume. Chrysler says its recent bankruptcy shields it in this particular conflict, saying that the process resolved any lingering contract disputes, and that its new master, Fiat, isn't on the hook for the money. Ultimately, it boils down to this: Auburn Hills wants the courts to rule that all past contracts are still in effect -- ensuring a parts supply flow from Daimler for the affected new vehicle programs -- and that the Detroit automaker doesn't owe the Germans any money. If things don't go Chrysler's way, it looks as if life could get really ugly for Fiat's new ward.