Chrysler Taiwan shrugs off U.S. difficulties, looks to the future with four new models

Billy Chamberlin, The China Post

While the merger of auto giants Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Corp. almost three years ago is still undergoing difficulties, Chrysler’s Taiwan operations are looking optimistically to the future. Chrysler launched the totally redesigned Chrysler Sebring in Taiwan yesterday, and the company is planning to introduce three other new models by the year end: the Chrysler Voyager, the Chrysler Town & Country (two minivans), and the Jeep Cherokee. Replacing the Chrysler Cirrus, the re-engineered sedan is up against a crowded and competitive market, acknowledged James Zemke, president of Chrysler Taiwan. He said the automaker’s annual sales target hovers only around a couple hundred Sebrings. With the Nissan Cefiro, Toyota Premio, Honda Accord, and Ford’s new Metrostar, the middle car market is a tough segment to crack. But Zemke said the Sebring’s classy and athletic styling and performance help to separate the car from its competitors. The Sebring comes from the U.S. relatively unchanged, with only a kilometer marked speedometer and a California emission standards package to meet the tougher emission laws of Taiwan.

Chrysler intends to bring its full range of U.S. models to Taiwan, and Zemke said Taiwan’s entrance into the World Trade Organization (WTO) would greatly benefit Chrysler’s Jeep models. Current import tariffs attach a 60 percent commodities tax to vehicles with engines larger than 3.6 Liters, compared with the usual 35 percent import tariff. The all-terrain vehicles require large engines to propel the heavy frames needed to undergo off-road driving. Unfortunately, this penalty is passed over to customers, said Zemke. Entrance into WTO will help lower Jeep’s sticker price and thereby increasing the number of vehicles sold.