Chrysler on the hunt for overseas outlets

By From The Financial Times| Jun 22 2007
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Chrysler is courting potential foreign franchisees in its Auburn Hills, MI headquarters this week in a bid to expand its underleveraged overseas business.

DaimlerChrysler's troubled US unit, in which buyout group Cerberus is acquiring control for $7.4bn, said yesterday that it had invited 70 dealers and other possible investors from Russia, Japan, the Middle East and elsewhere to look at its vehicles and hear about its ongoing turnaround plan.

Tom La Sorda, Chrysler's president and chief executive, said his company would "continue to aggressively defend" its position in North America, but stressed the importance of increasing overseas sales "so that we are not as dependent on the ups and downs of a single region".

Chrysler's reliance on the competitive and mature US market, along with a portfolio weighted heavily toward large vehicles, has contributed to its financial woes. Its sales outside North America are up 16 per cent so far this year, but it remains the most US-focused of the Detroit area's domestic carmakers.

Chrysler sold just under 207,000 vehicles outside North America last year, less than 8 per cent of its total sales. It now aims to double that amount to about 400,000 within five years.

Chrysler said yesterday that it wanted to add roughly 100 new sales outlets in established markets, such as Western Europe, over the next two years while expanding its presence in markets such as Russia and China. It currently has about 1,400 sales outlets outside North America.

GM has compensated for some of its shrinking U.S. market share through burgeoning foreign sales of Korean-made Chevrolet cars, and Ford is aggressively expanding its compact and subcompact offering abroad.

Chrysler last year launched the Dodge Caliber compact car, the brand's first volume vehicle outside North America, and has sold more than 13,000 units to date. Dodge will introduce its Nitro and Avenger models this summer.

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