DaimlerChrysler Corp. unveiled last month a restructured product strategy team concept that will give hard-to-classify products a better chance of making it to market.

The idea, an evolution of Chrysler's 1989 team approach, aims to broaden the mandate of each team, removing restrictions on creativity within an architectural grouping, reducing development time to 18 months, improving quality and cutting costs.

The small vehicle product team, which includes the PT Cruiser, replaces the small-car platform. Minivans and the cross/utility vehicle (CUV) derivative codenamed CS fall under family vehicle. Jeep is in the activity vehicle team. The truck team includes body-on-frame vehicles (pickups, sport/utility vehicles).

The large-car platform moves to the premium product team, including future stabs at luxury CUVs on a large car chassis.

Platforms still will be shared with Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi, the company says.

Over the next five years, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will take the lead in developing small cars (the next Neon is expected to come off the Mitsubishi Lancer platform in '03) while the Chrysler Group leads in midsize cars.

The result is Mitsubishi and Chrysler versions that differ in shape, exterior, interior, ride and powertrain, says Richard O. Schaum, DCC executive vice president-product development and quality.

The ultimate goal of the new product creation system, says Chrysler Group President Dieter Zetsche, is to move the carmaker from a push strategy of moving metal with incentives, to a pull model where demand drives sales and product drives demand. This system is designed to add discipline and scope to the complex task of creating new product while bringing greater focus to manufacturing and marketing.

One of the first changes will be to reduce the number of platforms from 14 to 9. By the '04 model year, all products will benefit from the new system, Mr. Zetsche says.