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Despite drop in sales, Zetsche sees Chrysler turnaround

Frankfurt. Chrysler suffered a 6% sales drop in August, but Chrysler boss Dieter Zetsche believes a sales improvement will help the company achieve a slightly positive operating profit" in 2003.

"So far Chrysler mainly had to rely on successes on the cost side," he told Automobilwoche. But these will soon be complemented by the introduction of new products.

Chrysler will soon be able to benefit from the sales of nine new models the company is launching between now and the end of 2004, Zetsche said.

He admitted that Chrysler had previously overrated the chances of success of its current models. Three years ago it was impossible to imagine "this brutal battle on the US market," he said, referring to the proliferation of incentives and discounts there.

He acknowledged that the Pacifica was priced too high, which has resulted in low initial sales, with only 568 units in March and 2,102 in April. Sales of more than 7,000 units in August are "respectable," he said.

To succeed as a premium brand, Chrysler will have to launch several new models. Zetsche is happy with the "excellent start" of the Crossfire sports car in the USA. The company will decide by early 2004 if the planned annual production of 20,000 units at Karmann will be increased. Another 5,000 vehicles "would be conceivable," the Chrysler boss said.

Chrysler will announce at the Detroit auto show in January whether it will introduce its Dodge brand in Europe. Zetsche said he has "sympathy" for the idea.

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