As expected, DaimlerChrysler's 2001 earnings were dragged down by huge losses at the company's US-based Chrysler unit.

DC's 2001 loss of 662 million euros ($US589 million for 2001, equivalent to $0.59 per share) compares with net income of almost 7.9 billion euros in 2000.

DC made a one-time charge of 2.7 billion euros in respect of losses incurred on its US operations - principally Chrysler and its heavy-duty commercial vehicle unit, Freightliner.

The company said that Chrysler's 2001 operating loss excluding one-time effects was 2,183 million euros, which compares with 531 million euros in the black during 2000.

Worldwide, Chrysler sold 2.8 million cars and light trucks worth $56.5 billion.

However, DC claims that the Chrysler loss was lower than the target range set at the beginning of the year and that "the implementation of the turnaround plan achieved cost savings and efficiency improvements that were substantially greater than originally planned, offsetting the negative impact of declining unit sales and revenues".

In contrast with the thumping Chrysler loss, the Mercedes-Benz passenger cars division of the company (which includes the smart city brand) chalked up record operating profit in 2001. Excluding one-time effects, the division managed 2001 operating profit of 2,961 million euros - three percent ahead of 2000's figure. Worldwide, 1,229,700 passenger cars were sold, of which 116,200 were smarts.

Severe market decline in North America and Argentina resulted in sales of 492,900 commercial vehicles well down on 2000. Demand in Western Europe also weakened distinctly during the course of the year, DC said.

For the first half of the 2001/2002 financial year, which ends on March 31, 2002, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation made an operating loss of 13.1 billion yen ($108 million). This was however 44 percent lower than that in the first half of the previous year (23.2 billion yen). Mitsubishi sold 658,000 vehicles worth 1.533 billion yen ($12.6 billion).

DaimlerChrysler invested $7.9 billion in property, plant and equipment, and $5.3 billion in research and development in 2001.

The company said in a statement that it expects group operating profit for 2002 (excluding one-time effects) to exceed twice the 2001 level by a 'very significant amount'. The statement added that the group is 'confident that it will achieve results similar to those projected one year ago, but at slightly later dates'.

Despite the loss, DC will still pay shareholders a dividend of $0.89 per share.

(Euro 1 = $US0.8901)