updated 9/16/2005 7:42:40 PM ET 2005-09-16T23:42:40

DaimlerChrysler AG said Friday it will boost production in northeast Asia and plans to manufacture the Chrysler 300 sedan model in China beginning in late 2006.

The plans will raise investment by the German-American automaker and its partners in the region to $1.8 billion from $1.5 billion.

Chrysler announced Thursday it plans to produce a minivan in Fuzhou, China, as well as Taipei, Taiwan, for those local markets. That production is also set to begin by the end of 2006.

The company also announced earlier this week that it has Chinese government approval for an auto-financing joint venture.

Chrysler Group’s chief executive, Tom LaSorda, made the announcement while wrapping up a visit to China on Friday.

“China is extremely important to our long-term strategy,” LaSorda said. “This is a tremendous statement in this marketplace.”

LaSorda said all the Chrysler 300s would be manufactured for the domestic Chinese market. He declined to reveal production targets, but noted the vehicle’s new Beijing plant will have an overall capacity of 80,000 units a year.

In 2004, Chinese consumers purchased about 1,000 Chrysler 300s, LaSorda said, all imported.

DaimlerChrysler has trailed rivals General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. in China, the world’s fastest growing major market. Virtually all major global automakers have announced plans to increase car-making capacity here, although growth has slowed in the past year.

Auto sales in China now total about 5 million vehicles annually, making it the world’s third biggest market behind the United States and Japan.

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