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Chrysler plans shift to smaller cars

Company also will step up focus on international sales

DETROIT -- Chrysler is moving to become less reliant on trucks for profits and more competitive internationally with a portfolio of smaller cars, its top executive said yesterday.

Tom LaSorda, president and chief executive of DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, said trucks and bigger sport utility vehicles have accounted for more than 70 percent of Chrysler's US sales.

So the company has been hit harder than any other automaker by the shift toward more fuel-efficient vehicles, he said.

``We're addressing those issues and moving our product portfolio to a mix that's more in line with the recent realities and market trends," LaSorda said in a speech to the Automotive Press Association.

DaimlerChrysler last week projected Chrysler's third-quarter loss would be $1.52 billion, more than twice what it had previously anticipated. High gas prices also have hurt cross-town rivals Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., which also log most of their sales in the truck segment, while the more fuel-efficient car segment is dominated by Asian competitors.

LaSorda said Chrysler has 10 new models coming out this year.

``Many of those new entries catch the wave of the move to more fuel-efficiency," he said .

The company also will step up its international sales initiatives because those markets are growing while North American demand has remained stable, he said .

Chrysler is particularly interested in entering the subcompact market across the globe, but LaSorda said the only way to do that profitably is through an alliance with another manufacturer .

LaSorda acknowledged that he moved too slowly in reducing Chrysler's bloated inventory of trucks and SUVs.

The company said last week that it would will cut retail shipments by 16 percent in the second half of the year to 705,000 vehicles from the previous target of 840,000.

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