DaimlerChrysler has killed off the Java small minivan that was to have been Chrysler's core European passenger car.
Unveiled as a concept car at the Frankfurt auto show last year, the Java was widely praised for its slick styling and spacious interior. Designed for European markets, it would have competed against the Renault Scenic and Opel/Vauxhall Zafira.
'The decision to kill the Java was taken earlier this year,' said a senior DCX source. He declined to give a specific reason why.
'The Java was based on a front-wheel-drive Mercedes platform which existed before Daimler-Benz and Chrysler linked up last year. Basing a Chrysler on a Mercedes-Benz platform could have confused the brand images,' he added.
The news comes as DCX reviews its entire small-car program - specifically in Europe. DCX's Smart microcar division has struggled to meet sales targets, and is seeking ways to extend the model range. And, with the Java-sized Mercedes-Benz A-class small minivan already selling well, DCX is wondering whether it can afford to build a Europe-only Chrysler.
But there are several other issues that may have helped kill the Java:
It only had five seats, while the Zafira has seven seats. Ford has already killed its five-seat Focus small minivan program - largely for this reason.
DCX's interest in acquiring Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi already has a mainstream small minivan for Europe, the Space Star, built at NedCar in Holland. Mitsubishi shares this factory - and the S40/V40 platform - with Volvo, although Ford may want Volvo to move out of NedCar in the future to take advantage of spare capacity at one of Ford's plants in northern Europe. This could leave space for Chrysler to build cars on a shared platform alongside Mitsubishi at NedCar.
DCX has been in talks with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and other carmakers with a view to developing small cars together. PSA may donate its future 106 platform to DCX for a four-seat version of DCX's Smart microcar for Europe.
Chrysler has struggled to sell its North America-sourced passenger cars in Europe. The Neon has suffered from build quality problems, and, despite low pricing and a high standard specification, has failed to establish itself as a credible European compact sedan.