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DaimlerChrysler pulls out of plant

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DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group will stop using Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s Normal, Ill., factory to make Chrysler and Dodge cars next year.

The companies still plan to develop new models together and share parts and engines. But Chrysler is expected to shift production of its next generation mid-size models — now sold as the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus — to Chrysler plants in Sterling Heights and Belvidere, Ill. The move could mean more jobs at those factories.

The new models will still be jointly developed by Chrysler and Mitsubishi.

The decision to stop using Mitsubishi’s Normal, Ill., plant was made before DaimlerChrysler decided not to provide additional financial support to bail out Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Motors, which is 37 percent owned by the German automaker, Chrysler spokesman Jason Vines said Wednesday.

The Illinois plant makes Mitsubishi Galant sedans, Endeavor sport utility vehicles, and Eclipse coupes and Spyder convertibles, as well as Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus coupes. Chrysler’s Sterling Heights plant currently builds the Stratus and Sebring sedans, and the Sebring convertible.

The Japanese automaker plans production cuts at the Illinois plant as part of a $4 billion revival plan.

As part of the bailout, DaimlerChrysler’s stake in Mitsubishi Motors will fall to 23 percent, while buyout company Phoenix Capital Ltd. will take an estimated 40 percent stake.

In October, Mitsubishi said it would trim as many as 425 jobs at the factory and scrapped a $200 million expansion plan.

“It’s essential for Mitsubishi Motors to have a high plant utilization rate, and for Chrysler to pull out its production is clearly a bad thing,” said Yasuhiro Matsumoto, a credit analyst with BNP Paribas Securities in Tokyo. “It raises questions about the other projects Mitsubishi Motors and DaimlerChrysler are working on, even though they claim those projects will continue.”

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