DETROIT – Two years after the formation of its in-house performance unit, Performance Vehicle Operations (PVO), DaimlerChrysler Corp. is changing the name to Street and Racing Technology (SRT), which is already familiar to PVO customers thanks to vehicle branding. (See related story: Chrysler’s Performance Group Has Triplets)

The move comes as an attempt to “eliminate a lot of the confusion” created by PVO’s role in building SRT cars. The unit is responsible for developing each of the three current Dodge products wearing SRT badges: a high-powered Neon SRT-4, Ram Pickup SRT-10 and Viper SRT-10, says Dan Knott, Chrysler Group Director-SRT.

Chrysler SRT-6 Crossfire unveiled in Geneva and slated for sale in September.

In addition to the aforementioned vehicle teams, Dodge’s Mopar parts group and all motorsports activities, including its NASCAR teams, operate under the SRT umbrella.

Knott says the name change is especially important as the SRT portfolio widens with a first-ever Chrysler product – an SRT-6 version of the Crossfire coupe and convertible, which was unveiled in Geneva and is slated for sale in September.

Knott says the Crossfire is the first SRT vehicle unveiled in Europe, and the company wanted to avoid confusing European media and consumers with a difference between the name of the cars and the organization that makes them. The company eventually will sell SRT products in Europe.

Although the move makes sense to Knott over the long haul, he says it has provided quite an immediate shakeup within the ranks to people who helped form the PVO team.

“I was very comfortable when we said let’s make the organization name the same as the cars. I will tell you, it was the most emotional decision I’ve ever had to make for my organization. It was like you reached in and ripped their heart out.”

The unit initially was formed using about 200 engineers from Mopar, the motorsports division, plus the Prowler and Viper vehicle teams. Many have stuck with the team throughout the two years of its existence.

Knott says the key market that SRT has really come to capitalize on since the performance unit’s inception is the tuner market. The company’s beefed-up-$21,000 SRT-4 has experienced sell-out demand and media praise.

Plus, Mopar’s aftermarket parts customers primarily are interested in buying products traditionally associated with the tuner market. Currently, 30% of all Mopar sales are staged turbo-upgrade packages for the SRT-4.

Catering to the performance-oriented buyer forces Knott to maintain a “fair amount of autonomy” between Chrysler’s senior management and the SRT crew, he says.

The SRT organization is driven by its own internal goals: exterior styling that resonates with the brand, race-inspired interiors, a balance of race performance and everyday driveability, braking performance, and powertrain.

SRT also is committed to keeping suppliers on their toes, Knott says, demanding “suppliers walk the talk,” because SRT is on tighter production schedules and has more demanding buyers looking for “integrity and credibility” than the company at large.

“We just simply don’t have time,” he says. “Our programs we’re executing run between 18 and 24 months.

“When some guy comes to me and says ‘Ok, let’s talk camshafts – I can offer you this camshaft at 25% cost savings at the same level of durability,’ I’m not going to believe him until he comes to me with (validation) that says, ‘I’ve run 3 million or whatever miles and I can show you that it meets the requirements.’”

jstoll@primediabusiness.com