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China's Chery Auto announces sedan venture with Israeli partner

China's biggest domestic automaker, Chery Automobile Co., announced plans Thursday for a venture with an Israeli partner to make sedans and sport utility vehicles, possibly for export to the United States, a government news agency reported.

The move comes as China's new but ambitious automakers, which already export to developing countries, prepare to try to break into the U.S. and other developed markets.

Chery's new venture is valued at 5.8 billion yuan (US$750 million; euro500 million), and partner Israel Corp. is to invest US$225 million (euro165 million) for a 45 percent stake, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The venture will "explore the European and U.S. market," Xinhua said.

Phone calls to Chery's headquarters in the eastern city of Wuhu after working hours on Thursday rang unanswered.

Chinese Automakers (Automation)
Chinese Automakers (Automation)
The planned factory in the eastern province of Anhui is expected to produce 105,000 sedans and 45,000 SUVs a year, Xinhua said. It said the partners are awaiting Chinese government approval.

Chery reported 2006 sales of 305,200 vehicles, including 272,400 sedans. Company executives have said its sales target this year is 390,000 vehicles, with 70,000 exported.

The company says it hopes eventually to export to the United States but has announced no timetable.

Industry analysts say Chinese automakers will need to improve their technology to meet U.S. safety and environmental standards.

Israel Corp. is a major Israeli holding company, with investments in chemicals, shipping, semiconductors and energy, according to its Web site.

Chery announced an agreement last year with DaimlerChrysler AG for the Chinese company to manufacture small vehicles for sale worldwide under the Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep brand names.

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