Chrysler-Mahindra Cooking Up India Deal?

With Ford officially anointing India’s Tata Motors as the top bidder for Jaguar and Land Rover, it looks look Chrysler is trying to cook up a deal with an automaker in India as well.

Several global media outlets reported over the weekend that Chrysler is in talks with India’s Mahindra & Mahindra, archrival to Tata, for some kind of partnership, the nature of which is unclear.

Chrysler: Expanding Global Reach

From the day it took over Chrysler, Cerberus Capital Management has said it intends to expand Chrysler’s global reach.

To that end, Chrysler last week announced it had appointed Simon Boag executive vice president for global alliance operations. Then came news of Mahindra, though neither Chrysler nor Mahindra have said anything publicly about a potential partnership.

The Economic Times in India, quoting unnamed industry sources, reported last week that Chrysler wants to tap Mahindra’s engineering expertise to develop products for emerging markets. The publication reported a partnership could include an equity stake.

Mahindra Pulling the Plug with Nissan-Renault?

The rumors of a Chrysler link with Mahindra, which was among the losing bidders for Ford's Jaguar and Land Rover, gained momentum when separate media reports on Saturday said Mahindra may pull out of a joint venture with Nissan-Renault to build a $1 billion car plant in India.

The Dow Jones Newswires reported that Mahindra, which has a 50% stake in the Nissan-Renault venture, was unhappy with partnerships the Nissan and Renault have made with other Indian automakers, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Nissan and Renault have separately partnered with India's Bajaj Auto Ltd. to make a low-cost car by around 2010 to compete against Tata's new $2,500 four-seater car, being unveiled this week at the New Delhi auto show, which AutoObserver will cover.  Nissan has also partnered with India’s Ashok Leyland Ltd. to build light trucks and develop auto technologies at new plants in India.

Mahindra will continue its partnership with Renault to manufacture the low-cost Logan sedan launched in India in April, The Economic Times reported.

Another report over the weekend, however, attributed Mahindra's reported move to withdraw from the Nissan-Renault venture. Mahindra didn't find “sufficient synergies” in the project, The Economic Times said.

Still, a possible link with Chrysler, which has no partners in India, may be a factor as well.

Chrysler’s Other Overseas Connections

Chrysler also reportedly is talking with Russian automaker Gaz. An unnamed Gaz executive reportedly told the Financial Times in London in December that the two companies were in talks.

In China, Chrysler appointed former GM and Shanghai Automotive executive Phil Murtaugh to head Asia-Pacific operations so expansion in China and elsewhere in the region is expected.

What’s less clear is Chrysler’s partnership with China’s Chery Automobile Co., signed last year. The deal was supposed to yield a small car to be sold under the Dodge brand in North America, Central America and Europe. But a

Chery executive said late last year the companies are still in the phase of exploring options, which could take a couple of years.