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Chrysler seeks production plant

CHRYSLER LLC, which has until April 30 to form an alliance with Italy's Fiat in order to get United States government aid, plans to have a manufacturing plant in China to become a "meaningful player" in the fast growing auto market, a company executive said yesterday.

"Chrysler is going through a viability plan and that means our capability to move forward in China has been delayed," said John Kett, vice president of Chrysler LLC and chief executive officer of Chrysler Asia Pacific. "But we understand that to be a meaningful player in China, you have to have manufacturing in China."

Due to the global financial crisis, Kett said China, along with the Asia-Pacific region, plays a key role to offset a sales decline in the US as customer demand for individualized products will rise when the market gets mature.

Chrysler sells sport-utility vehicles, multi-purpose vehicles and sedans under its Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler brands in China. It focuses its business in China mainly through imports under the Jeep brands.

Last year, sales of Chrysler's imported vehicles tripled to around 10,000 units in China. First quarter sales also accelerated 17 percent from a year earlier. But the car maker is still trailing far behind other international rivals.

Detroit-based Chrysler has launched the higher-end Jeep Wrangler Rubicon to complete the Jeep family line-up in China, which also includes the Jeep Commander, Jeep Grand Cherokee and SUV Jeep Compass.

Kett said its short-term plan in China will remain focused on imports as it helps to know the market and understand the demand of the nation's younger generation.

"If we can meet them and understand them with small vehicle volume that are profitable for us, that will build us to be profitable and give cash reserves over the time and give us the confidence to move forward the relationship," the vice president added.


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