Monday, September 17, 2007

Chrysler seeks out new global markets


Bradford Wernle
Automotive News
September 17, 2007 - 12:01 am EST

FRANKFURT — Now independent of its German parent company, Chrysler LLC is searching far and wide for global growth opportunities.

The latest examples:

  • Chrysler has chosen international auto shows to introduce critical new models, including the Dodge Journey crossover unveiled here.

  • Chrysler's newest market is the African country of Libya, where it has sold 3,000 to 4,000 PT Cruisers this year.

  • Chrysler wants to start production in Russia within two years and is having discussions with possible manufacturing partners, said Michael Manley, executive vice president of international sales and marketing.

  • Chrysler wants to add 100 dealers outside of North America in the next two years.

Lacking the international operations of its Detroit rivals General Motors and Ford Motor Co., Chrysler is taking its growth wherever it can find it.

According to Chrysler, August sales outside North America grew 26 percent, to 18,556 units. The company claims year-on-year sales increases outside North America for 27 straight months.

Through August, Chrysler says, it has sold 153,813 units outside North America, up 19 percent over 2006.

Manley estimates Chrysler will sell more than 200,000 vehicles outside North America this year.

Chrysler is still 19.9 percent owned by what will be known as Daimler AG. The two companies will share vehicle and parts distribution in Europe.

But marketing and advertising offices will be separated, though Chrysler will continue to operate its European sales office out of Stuttgart. In most major European countries Chrysler will own its own distribution network. In Finland, Greece, Ireland, Norway and Portugal, Chrysler will sell through independent distributors.

Manley, an English executive who was popular with North American dealers, was promoted to his current position last December as part of an effort to jump-start Chrysler's international growth.

Manley said he is not certain whether he and Thomas Hausch, vice president of international sales, will continue to live in the Detroit area or move to Europe.

“We like to be close to local markets,” he said.

Chrysler sells vehicles in 125 countries. Outside North America, its top-selling market is Italy. Next is Venezuela. Chrysler produces vehicles such as the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Grand Cherokee in South America.

Finding local production partners is an important part of Chrysler's international growth strategy, says Manley.

It's the best way to quickly move into a country with a fast-growing vehicle market, like Russia. Manley declined to name potential manufacturing partners in Russia.

Asia also is central to Chrysler's growth strategy. Chrysler just named former General Motors Asia chief Phil Murtaugh to head its Asia operations. Chrysler also is looking at opportunities in India. c

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