DaimlerChrysler Expands Japanese Presence With Dodge Brand

TOKYO (Kyodo) - DaimlerChrysler Japan Co. said Wednesday it will introduce the Dodge brand to the Japanese market in June as part of its ongoing efforts to expand overseas sales, amid increasing speculation about a possible sale of the unprofitable Chrysler Group by its German parent. 

Dodge, which has a history of 93 years, is the Chrysler Group's best-selling nameplate, contributing to nearly 50 percent of sales at the North American division of DaimlerChrysler AG.

For the Japanese market, the automaker will introduce four models - its key Caliber five-door hatchback, the Nitro sports-utility vehicle, the Avenger midsize sedan and the Charger SRT8 muscle car with a 6.1-liter engine.

"International markets, including Japan, are extremely important" for the Chrysler Group's future success, Hans Tempel, president of the Japan unit, said at a news conference in Tokyo.

Tempel noted that the group's overseas sales in 2006 rose 15 percent from the previous year, marking the highest growth in 10 years on a year-on-year basis, supported by brisk sales of the Caliber in Europe.

He said Dodge is an "iconic American brand" and its bold and edgy characteristics will provide "very attractive options for the Japanese customers" and will complement the Chrysler and Jeep brands of the group already in the Japanese market.

The automaker refrained from commenting on the sales target of the new brand in Japan and the prices of the four models.

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