July 13, 2006

Today In Automotive History

1995 Chrysler dealership opens in Hanoi

On this day in 1995, the Chrysler Corporation opened a car dealership in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam. One week later, Chrysler opened another dealership in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with the intention of marketing 200 import vehicles per year through the two dealerships. The openings were a part of Chrysler's long-term goal of implementing auto production in Vietnam--something that rivals Ford and Toyota were also pursuing at the time. On September 6, Chrysler received permission from the Vietnamese government to assemble vehicles in Vietnam, allowing Chrysler to construct a production facility in Dong Nai Province, Southern Vietnam, with the aim of manufacturing 500 to 1,000 Dodge Dakota pick-up trucks for the Vietnamese market annually. Chrysler Vice President of International Operations Tom Gale stated, "We're taking a very long term view with our program in Vietnam. Southeast Asia is a significant market on our international growth strategy, so it is vital to establish a foothold there now. Since it is a young market, it will take several years before we can produce at capacity level." Chrysler planned to achieve production of 17,000 vehicles annually in three car types: the Neon, the Dakota, and the Jeep Cherokee. Of the significant hang-ups faced by the foreign car companies attempting to set up shop in Vietnam was the Vietnamese government's refusal to give up rice pasture land for the construction of new production facilities. The American car companies also met resistance from some Vietnam veterans groups, but Chrysler held that it would not have gone forward with its move unless it met with the nation's approval. On this issue, Gale said, "By starting business here we feel we're helping the healing process. We have consulted with veterans groups and the U.S. government. Some feel it's time to move on. Many of the veterans groups support American investment in Vietnam as an outlet to increase access to the country." Projections showed that by the year 2000 the car market in Vietnam would increase to 60,000 vehicles sold annually. The crash of the Asian market in 1998 will limit those projections considerably.

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