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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 20:41 GMT
Car giant braced for job losses
Jürgen Schrempp, chairman, Daimler Chrysler
Jürgen Schrempp: leading DaimlerChrysler shake-up
The world's third biggest car company has tried to soothe fears that job losses are imminent at its US units but has confirmed that "employment levels" are under review.

"We won't be making a statement on job cuts at Chrysler in the next few days," a spokesman for DaimlerChrysler said. "That can't be done at a stroke."

Job cuts are likely to meet with opposition from the United Auto Workers union, which represents 76,000 workers at Chrysler's US plants.

Speculation is that some 20,000 workers will lose their jobs as part of a restructuring, aimed at helping the car giant boost profits at its US plants.

Troubleshooters

A troubleshooting team has been appointed to revive DaimlerChrysler's US plants, which last week ousted a top executive and revealed continuing losses.

The firm, owner of marques including Mercedes, has appointed German executives to head its Chrysler arm, which last week announced the resignation of president Jim Holden.

The new team will implement a restructuring drive, which is designed to "improve cost positioning, product line up and market performance", a company statement said.

The move follows continuing poor performance at US operations, which reported a record loss of 579m euros in the third quarter of 2000.

Measures including a sales incentive drive, and the launch of the PT Cruiser model, have failed to improve sales, which were 8% lower in October than a year before.

Company profile
Employs 467,000 people (1999)
Revenue of 149.9bn euros (1999)
World's third-biggest carmaker
Owns Mercedes, Smart, Plymouth, Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge
World's biggest commerical vehicle maker

The warning will come as an embarrassment to company chairman Mr Schrempp, who oversaw the creation of the firm in 1998 from a merger of US-based Chrysler and Germany's Daimler.

The company, which he described as a "marriage made in heaven", launched with a share price of 71.20 euros.

But Chrysler has continued to disappoint, with performance dragged down, many analysts believe, by the division's concentration on the US market, and a reliance on its existing jeeps, pick-ups and Voyager models rather than invest in new ranges.

Mr Holden's departure followed a series of resignations by US executives, including his predecessor as president.

Dr Dieter Zetsche, Mr Holden's replacement, is, at 46, the youngest member of the DaimlerChrysler board, and was previously head of the firm's commercial vehicles arms.

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