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CHRYSLER RAISES SIGHTS IN EUROPE

By Published on .

Chrysler Corp. will focus on marketing its passenger cars in Western Europe, a move that could breathe new life into its sagging Eagle brand.

Chrysler's minivan model and Jeep lines are selling better in Europe than its passenger cars, said Tom Kowaleski, VP-marketing and communications for Chrysler Europe. But with the European passenger-car segment expected to grow, the company wants a piece of that action.

The U.S. carmaker hopes to increase its sales in Europe by 20% annually through the end of the decade, reaching 200,000 units by 2000. Some of that growth has to come in passenger cars.

All Chrysler vehicles sold abroad-except Jeep-are badged as Chryslers. Beyond several subtle differences, the Eagle Vision sold in North America is essentially the Chrysler Vision sold abroad.

Neither the Vision nor Eagle's other two models, the Talon and Summit, have been selling well in the U.S., despite a $100 million ad push from Bozell, Southfield, Mich., on 1995 models.

EAGLE WOES

Last year, Eagle sold just over 44,000 units in the U.S. and 20,500 during the first seven months of 1996, a 42% drop from a year ago. The limp Eagle sales have fueled speculation that Chrysler might kill the brand, though it has denied such a plan.

President Robert Lutz is a strong supporter of Eagle and said to be behind the move to push the Vision in Europe.

Chrysler sold 84,573 vehicles in Europe last year, a 26% jump from 1994, but the Vision wasn't among its three top sellers.

Chrysler plans to start positioning its vehicles in Europe as "modern, sophisticated and American," Mr. Kowaleski said.

"In the next few years, you'll see more of this American focusing in the events we participate in and [in] product launches," he said.

New European print ads for Chrysler cars show wide-angle shots with bits of Americana in the background, such as New York's Chrysler Building or a diner reflected in a windshield.

Chrysler wouldn't say whether it planned more advertising to push its passenger cars in Europe. Agency Bozell Worldwide opened an office in Brussels earlier this year, to match Chrysler's newly opened office there.

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