By AP Business Writer
updated 2/16/2007 11:04:45 AM ET 2007-02-16T16:04:45

Dodge will join Chevrolet and other mainstream American brands being sold in China when sales begin sometime this year, DaimlerChrysler AG announced Friday.

Big name automakers have set their sights on China and other fast-growing developing markets to help offset legacy costs and provide sales growth missing in the U.S. and other Western markets.

Chrysler Group (China) Sales Ltd. is preparing a dealership network to sell Dodge cars throughout China, DaimlerChrysler said in a statement. The company said it also plans to launch another Chrysler vehicle and three new Jeep models in China this year.

"Chinese consumers are passionate about their cars, and we believe that vehicles of the legendary Dodge brand will be a big hit with consumers in China," Simon Elliott, Chrysler Group (China)'s president and CEO, said in the statement.

The statement did not provide details about where the Dodge vehicles would be made, saying only that the company would announce the first Dodge model for the China market later this year.

Imports of Chrysler PT Cruisers began earlier this month. The Chrysler 300C is made at its joint venture with Beijing Automotive, Beijing Benz-DaimlerChrysler Automotive Ltd.

Daimler Chrysler earlier reported that Mercedez-Benz sales rose 64 percent in January from the same month a year earlier to 2,700 units. Chrysler Group's monthly sales jumped 81 percent on-year to 1,477 units.

China surged past Japan to become the world's No. 2 vehicle market after the United States last year as car purchases by newly affluent drivers jumped 37 percent to 3.8 million, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Total vehicle sales climbed 25 percent to 7.2 million units.

Daimler executives said late last year that their company was in talks with China's Chery Automobile Co. to produce a sub-compact car for the Dodge brand, a potential step that could bring low-cost Chinese exports to the U.S. market.

Information on the status of those talks was not immediately available.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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