STUTTGART - On the strength of what outgoing Chairman Robert Eaton called the 'economic juggernaut' of the USA, DaimlerChrysler AG reported sharply higher revenue and profits for 1999.
Corporate operating income in 1999 was $11.09 billion, up 28 percent over the previous year. Revenue increased 14 percent, to $151 billion.
Sales of Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Plymouth vehicles generated $5.09 billion, making the Chrysler group the largest source of operating income for the company.
Unit sales for the Chrysler group rose 3 percent, to 3.2 million, but Jeep sales jumped 20 percent.
Sales of the high-profit vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee helped drive Chrysler's profits, Eaton said.
Corporate net income rose 19 percent, to $5.78 billion.
This was Eaton's last financial press conference with Daimler-Chrysler. He retires at the end of this month.
Jrgen Schrempp, whose post as chairman of the board is secured through 2003, fielded most of the questions at the February 28 presentation.
Schrempp denied recent rumors pairing DaimlerChrysler with Fiat or PSA/Peugeot-Citroen. 'Let me be specific: We have no small-car strategy,' Schrempp said, meaning DaimlerChrysler will not develop a new line of small cars in-house.
A foray into a new line of small cars for Asian and European markets would likely result from an outright acquisition.
But, Schrempp said, there is no guarantee DaimlerChrysler will expand into the tight small-car market. 'This market is highly competitive and there is fierce competition about market shares.'
Schrempp said Daimler-Chrysler's involvement, along with Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, in a joint Internet procurement operation will trim at least $1,000 from the cost of every vehicle the company builds.
The positive earnings story Schrempp and Eaton told journalists in the morning turned a bit sour later that day.
When Wall Street opened, several analysts reported DaimlerChrysler failed to meet fourth-quarter earnings estimates put out by the firm First Call/Thomson Financial.
The problem stemmed from the volatile currency market and the fact that some of the analysts used a different exchange rate to DaimlerChrysler when translating euros to dollars.
The company immediately launched a damage limitation exercise, with Schrempp and Eaton talking with New York analysts throughout the day and public relations staff fielding reporters' questions around the world.
Later, speaking at a dinner in Geneva, Schrempp said: 'Perhaps we should report earnings in yen and in pounds and in deutschmarks. Is this the way it should happen? If Wall Street doesn't understand that our fourth quarter is exceptionally strong, then it's not us that has the problem, it's Wall Street.'