Chrysler group will launch a Taiwan-built cargo van in Mexico and begin production of the recently redesigned Chrysler Sebring sedan in China for local sale.

The announcement on Thursday came as Chrysler confirmed a deal for China’s Chery Automobile to produce small vehicles for it to sell in the NAFTA region, European regions and possibly other global markets.

Chrysler has signed a memorandum of understanding with China Motor Corp (CMC) to produce the vehicle at its assembly facility in Yangmei, Taiwan. The 1000kg panel/cargo van will be sold in Mexico as a Dodge.

CMC is a long-term partner with DaimlerChrysler and produces the Town and Country minivan under licence, for the local market. Chrysler has also just confirmed a deal to produce a Chinese-market minivan under licence with CMC and Fujian Motor Group in Fuzhou, China.

Production of the new Sebring sedan in China market will begin later this year at Beijing-Benz DaimlerChrysler Automotive (BBDC), a joint venture between Beijing Automotive Industry Holding and DaimlerChrysler.

The new BBDC plant also builds the Chrysler 300C, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Mitsubishi Outlander.

Four-cylinder ‘world engines’ for the Sebring will be built at the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (Gema) plant in Dundee, Michigan for export to China.

In 2006, Chrysler sold 555,924 vehicles outside the US, an increase of 6.6% compared to 2005. Those figures include an increase of 1.7% in Canada; 3.3% in Mexico; and 15% outside of North America. Sales were boosted by the worldwide appeal of new products launched during 2006, including the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass.

“When you look at the global nature of the competitive scene, international initiatives will be critical to Chrysler Group’s success in the years ahead,” said Chrysler Group president and CEO Tom LaSorda. “We have a solid plan for sustainable, profitable international growth and the results so far provide a clear sign that the strategy is working. In the next five year period, a plan to double where we are today outside North America would be reasonable.”

Chrysler Group worldwide vehicle sales decreased by 4.5% in 2006, to a total of 2,698,429 units (2005: 2,826,131 units). In the United States, sales declined 7% to 2,142,505 units

Chrysler last year agreed a licensing arrangement which allows Russian automaker GAZ to build the previous-generation Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus sedans for sale in Russia under the GAZ brand.

As part of the deal, GAZ purchased manufacturing tooling from Chrysler Group’s Sterling Heights (Michigan) assembly plant where the sedans had previously been built. Engines for the sedans and other vehicles being built by GAZ will be supplied by the Chrysler plant in Saltillo, Mexico.