Chrysler Reaches Outside Of U.S.

Will build model in China and export van to Mexico.

DaimlerChrysler AG, hoping to expand outside the tough U.S. market, announced plans on Jan. 4 to build an all-new sedan in Beijing and to export a Taiwan-built cargo van to Mexico. Chrysler Group chief executive Tom LaSorda said the plans formed part of a strategy aimed at doubling the company's sales outside of its North America base, where it is struggling in the face of an onslaught by Asian rivals.

Chrysler Group, the U.S. arm of DaimlerChrysler, said U.S. sales of its Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge models skidded 7% to 2.143 million vehicles last year. But total sales outside the U.S. rose by 6.6% to 555,924 units, and European sales were up 20% at 110,559 cars.

Sales were aided by the worldwide appeal of new products such as the fuel-efficient Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass, which are among the few vehicles built in the U.S. that are now exported successfully.

"We have a solid plan for sustainable, profitable international growth and the results so far provide a clear sign that the strategy is working. In the next five-year period, a plan to double where we are today outside North America would be reasonable," LaSorda said.

The Chrysler Group had signed a memorandum of understanding with Taiwan's China Motor Corp. (CMC) to export a cargo van to Mexico. CMC will produce the van at its assembly facility in Yangmei, Taiwan and it will be shipped to Mexico where it will be sold as a Dodge vehicle.

And production of the new Sebring saloon car for the China market will begin later this year at Beijing-Benz DaimlerChrysler Automotive Co., a joint venture between the Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. Ltd. and DaimlerChrysler.

DaimlerChrysler is investing $1.6 billion in China to make passenger cars, vans and heavy- and medium-duty trucks as part of plans to capture a greater piece of the action in the fast-growing market.

In a separate deal announced last week, Chrysler is tying up with China's Chery Automotive Co. to build small cars in China that will be sold in the U.S. and around the world.

Earlier Jan. 3, the Shanghai Securities News reported that DaimlerChrysler has won approval to set up a joint venture that will manufacture Mercedes-Benz vans in China. The company will join forces with Fujian Auto Industry Group and Taiwan's CMC to invest more than $265 million between them. The joint venture, which expects eventually to have annual output of up to 40,000 of DaimlerChrysler's Viano, Viato and Sprinter vans, is scheduled to start production by the end of 2008.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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