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Asia to become market for DaimlerChrysler’s Smart fortwo

Asia could be a new market for DaimlerChrysler’s Smart fortwo, a two-seat city car that is a common sight in Europe and is headed to the United States next year.

"There's certainly a market for Smart in Asia," Rainer Schmueckle, chief operating officer for the Stuttgart-based German automaker, said on the sidelines of the Frankfurt auto show Wednesday.

He added that the Smart GmbH unit also is poised to finally break even this year as it readies for the car's U.S. launch in early 2008.

Smart, part of the Mercedes Car Group, has lost money consistently since it was formed.

DaimlerChrysler spent nearly EUR1 billion (US$1.38 billion) on restructuring Smart, cut 300 of the 750 jobs at the unit's headquarters and ended production of its larger, four-seater forfour model, along with its two-seat Roadster, in 2006.

Schmueckle said demand for the fortwo in the U.S. is strong, noting that the company has got about 30,000 registrations from potential buyers there.

Turning to Asia - and particularly China, where DaimlerChrysler already has agreements with automakers, he said it made sense to look for more markets.

"We have a profound production base there now, primarily for the domestic market," he said. "It can't be ruled out that we might export from there to other Asian markets at some point."

Shares of DaimlerChrysler fell 0.7 percent to EUR64.04 (US$88.53) in Frankfurt.

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