The product planning budget may be smaller, but each dollar is being stretched further, says Dieter Zetsche, president of the Chrysler Group.

“The number is in the range of $32 billion for five years. But we are able to do more with this money than what was intended to do with the more than $40 billion before,” Mr. Zetsche tells Ward's.

The carmaker's approach to new product launches includes optimizing existing facilities and platforms, and then looking to add new product, but on platforms with many variants in mind.

The strategy relies on platform sharing with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and component sharing with Mercedes-Benz, as well as changing traditional strategic partnerships with suppliers, a move already saving as much as 40% in tooling costs in some bids, says Mr. Zetsche.

In revisiting the entire product plan under Mr. Zetsche's watch, there have been some delays, such as the tall wagon, codenamed CS, based on the Citadel concept first shown in 1999. The cross/utility, to be assembled at the minivan plant in Windsor, Ont., was slated to launch with the all-wheel-drive version in mid-2002. But it was pushed back to January 2003 and now bears the new regime's stamp.

He doesn't apologize for delaying products “where we saw opportunity to do better with some changes.”

He says the next-generation Dodge Dakota pickup does not fall into this category. “We intend to be there with the Dakota at the time that we originally thought of, so I don't see any delay there.”