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DaimlerChrysler may sell Dodge pickup truck in Europe

M80 Concept

September 28, 2002 PARIS -- Bill Koenig writing for Bloomberg News reported that DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler division's effort to boost sales in Europe may include a small Dodge-brand pickup truck aimed at younger drivers.

Chrysler's push into Europe has focused on the Jeep and Chrysler brands. The U.S. division of the world's fifth-largest carmaker may add Dodge's M80 truck to the lineup following visitors' reactions to a prototype at a car show in Detroit this year, said Chrysler Chief Operating Officer Wolfgang Bernhard.

"We were surprised by the response, especially by European journalists and customers," Bernhard said in an interview at the Paris Motor Show.

Chrysler, the No. 3 U.S. carmaker, wants to increase sales outside the U.S. The automaker sold 184,255 vehicles abroad last year and is aiming to increase that by about 160,000 as of 2011, division Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche has said. Chrysler wants to boost global yearly sales 36 percent to about 3.8 million vehicles by then.

Dodge builds the large Ram pickup truck and makes sports cars including the Viper. It's studying whether building the M80, which would sell for less than $20,000, would be profitable.

Chrysler would aim the pickup at U.S. buyers under 22 years old known as the Millennial generation. Executives said the M80 may also appeal to European buyers, possibly leading to marketing of other Dodge models.

Demand for the Viper in Europe "is not big enough" to mount a sales effort in the region, James Schroer, executive vice president of sales marketing, said in an interview. He didn't give Viper sales figures for the region.

U.S. drivers bought 1,072 Vipers in the first eight months of this year, according to Autodata Corp. numbers.

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Smaller Size

The M80 would be 167 inches (424 centimeters) long, 64 inches wide and 66 inches high, compared with Dodge's Dakota model, which is 196 inches long, 72 inches wide and 67 inches high. The smaller size may make the M80 attractive in Europe because the continent's roads are narrower than those in North America, Chrysler executives said.

The carmaker isn't displaying any Dodge models at the Paris show, which opens to the public tomorrow and ends Oct. 13. DaimlerChrysler is showing the Europe-based Mercedes-Benz and Smart models in addition to Chrysler and Jeep vehicles.

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Positive reviews from a single car show may be an unreliable indicator of how the M80 would sell in Europe, said Mike Wall, an analyst at in Grand Rapids, Michigan-based IRN Inc., which forecasts carmakers' vehicle plans for suppliers.

"It's too early to tell if Europeans are ready to put down money for pickups," said Wall. In contrast, "a case can be made for North American production."

Earning money from the M80 "is a challenging question," Zetsche said in an interview. Teams from Chrysler have gone to plants building the two-seat Smart car to study ways to make the M80 profitably, he said.