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Chrysler to Develop Electric Vehicle on Its Own


DETROIT — Ending speculation that the Big Three auto makers would enter an unprecedented agreement to jointly build an electric vehicle, Chrysler Corp. said Friday that it has concluded it would be cheaper to build one alone.

General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. launched discussions on joint EV production and technology sharing in December, after GM curtailed its fast-track effort to produce a two-seat, zero-emission car by 1995.

Chrysler said Friday that it is continuing to participate in talks about forming a consortium for developing critical EV technology that could be shared by the Big Three. And it said it is still interested in sharing information on design, development and testing of electric vehicles with its competitors. For instance, the Big Three would like to standardize some components.

Rather than jointly develop a car with its competitors from the ground up, however, Chrysler has decided to pursue development of an electric-powered minivan that could be based on the firm's existing products, company spokesman Chris Preuss said. That would reduce costs and give Chrysler the flexibility to adapt to emerging battery technologies.

GM and Ford are pursuing entirely novel vehicles that will require new, costly production lines, but they are also committed to existing battery technology that could become obsolete with a battery breakthrough.

The possibility of joint EV production had been considered a long shot by many industry experts, noting cultural conflicts between the car makers and potential antitrust concerns. The world's biggest car makers must bring EVs to market by 1998, when California will require that 2% of vehicles sold be emission-free.

Ford and GM officials declined to comment on Chrysler's statement.

Chrysler Chairman Robert Eaton and Vice President Francois Castaing confirmed the decision.

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