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China Unhurt by Chrysler Sale
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DaimlerChrysler AG's sale of its US arm will not affect its businesses in China, the world's second-biggest vehicle market, according to the automaker's Northeast Asian operation. 

"China will continue to be an important market for Daimler and Chrysler, and we are continuing to move forward with all our projects," Trevor Hale, the Beijing-based spokesman for DaimlerChrysler Northeast Asia, told China Daily.

Hale's remark refutes speculation that some of Chrysler's China plans will be suspended as a result of DaimlerChrysler's US$7.4-billion deal on Monday to sell 80.1 percent stakes of Chrysler Group, its troubled US arm, to the private equity group Cerberus Capital Management. The automaker will be renamed Daimler AG in the fall.

Chrysler agreed with China's Chery Automobile Co in January to make cars in China under the Dodge brand for the US and European markets.

"It is still in the process of being approved by (Chinese) regulators," said Jin Yibo, a spokesman for Chery based in east China's Anhui Province, denying the project has run aground.

Last month, Chrysler announced that the Dodge Caravan minivan will be assembled at the end of this year at a joint venture between Fujian Automotive Industry Corp and Japan's Mitsubishi Motors in coastal Fujian Province.

It will also bring a Sebring mid-sized sedan into DaimlerChrysler's joint venture with Beijing Automotive Industry Corp later this year. The venture started producing the Chrysler 300C and new Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans last year.

Another source from DaimlerChrysler Northeast Asia said the plans in Fujian and Beijing will be carried out according to schedule. 

Yale Zhang, the Shanghai-based director of Greater China vehicle forecasts for US auto consultancy CSM Worldwide Corp, said there's no reason for Chrysler to slacken its pace in China.

"I believe Chrysler will beef up its efforts in China as this market is too important to give up," Zhang said.

DaimlerChrysler is lagging behind its rivals, such as General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota, in China's fast-growing vehicle market.

Sales of China-made vehicles grew by 21.46 percent year-on-year to 2.93 million units in the first four months of this year, according to data from China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Full-year sales are predicted to reach 8.5 million units, up from 7.22 million units in 2006.

(China Daily May 17, 2007)

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