DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler group may soon need extra factory capacity as it launches new models as part of a turnaround drive, its chief operating officer said in a trade newspaper interview, according to Associated Press (AP).

DaimlerChrysler chief executive Juergen Schrempp launched the rescue plan for Chrysler in 2001, announcing that 26,000 jobs, or about one-fifth of its work force, would be cut and six plants shut down over three years, AP noted, adding that Chrysler executives say the restructuring effort is ahead of schedule, while warning that competition in the US market will remain tough in 2003.

“We don’t have to close any more plants, but actually need more capacity in some places for the new models,” COO Wolfgang Bernhard told the Automobilwoche trade newspaper, without giving further details, AP said.

Chrysler’s plants are currently running at 90 to 95% of full capacity, Bernhard said, according to AP.

AP noted that Chrysler chief executive Dieter Zetsche said last month the US arm would break even this year, even including restructuring costs. Chrysler had been aiming to move out of the red in 2002 only when those charges were excluded.

According to AP, in the interview, Bernhard said operating profit also would come in ahead of the company’s $US1 billion target. It was unclear whether that figure excluded restructuring costs.

Bernhard said Chrysler aimed to double operating profit this year, AP added.