Wed, Jan 12, 2005 - Page 10 News List

China Motor joins minivan venture

AUTO INDUSTRY DaimlerChrysler, in a bid to boost overseas sales, will work with China Motor to produce minivans for the Taiwan market beginning next year

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DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler unit will make minivans for the Taiwan market in a venture with China Motor Corp as Chrysler seeks to expand sales outside the US, Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said yesterday.

Production with Taipei-based China Motor is scheduled to begin next year, Zetsche said in an interview today with reporters at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The minivans will include the option for second and third-row seats that fold into the floor, he said. Zetsche didn't forecast sales.

Chrysler, of Auburn Hills, Michigan, is seeking to increase sales in the US and overseas with new models such as the 300 sedan and redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee. US sales should increase this year from 2.2 million last year as new models such as the Dodge Charger sedan go on sale, Zetsche said.

Chrysler cut 6,000 jobs last year, trimming employment to 87,000, Zetsche said.

The company had 127,000 employees in 2000 before a restructuring.

Zetsche has said his firm will match industry leaders Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co in manufacturing efficiency and vehicle quality by 2007.

New models attracted enough demand for the automaker to lower fewer rebates last year, Zetsche said. Net pricing for Chrysler, the average cost of cars and trucks after subtracting for the costs of incentives, rose for the time in several years, Zetsche said. He wouldn't give specific figures.

General Motors' net pricing also rose last year for the first time in six, said Gary Cowger, the Detroit-based automaker's North American president, in a separate interview yesterday. He also wouldn't mention details.

The automaker cut the average time it needs to build a car or truck by about 4 percent last year and eliminated 500,000 hours of unscheduled overtime compared with 2003, Chrysler manufacturing chief Frank Ewasyshyn said in a separate interview.

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