For a company that so effectively promoted the effectiveness of frontal air bags, Chrysler Corp. has been conspicuously quiet as many of its competitors begin touting new models offering side air bags as standard or optional equipment.

"We've said all along that we were forced to rush in the last time around (with government-mandated deadlines for frontal air bags) and we want to make sure we find the right technology before we go ahead this time," says Chairman Robert J. Eaton.

While higher-priced luxury cars have been the first to offer side bags, that's beginning to change as more affordable models such as Toyota Corolla, he '99 Mercury Cougar and the upcoming '99 Toyota Camry Solara coupe will offer them.

Other Chrysler sources say the company will begin to offer side air bags around 2001 (see p.87). The "right technology," may depend on whatever system Daimler-Benz is using. The combined volume the soon-to-be-merged partners could achieve might drive the price to an affordable level.