Chrysler's Press: US automakers can be competitive

DETROIT (AP) -- Chrysler LLC Vice Chairman Jim Press says U.S. automakers have reached the start of a new era in which they can be competitive with foreign brands.

Press told the Automotive Press Association in Detroit on Wednesday that a new union contract that shifts retiree health care costs to a trust and allows lower wages for new hires have helped Chrysler and other automakers become leaner.

Press says Chrysler has cut 1 million units of production in the past year to match a smaller U.S. market. Chrysler sales are down 24 percent so far this year.

Press says it still will take time for Chrysler to fix its entire business model, but it is making progress. The company is spending $3 billion developing plants and new vehicles each year and plans seven new vehicles in 2010.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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