Daimler Chrysler suspends Voyager output in Austria (Y2k tests)

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Wednesday January 12, 10:18 am Eastern Time

DaimlerChrysler suspends Voyager output in Austria

VIENNA, Jan 12 (Reuters) - DaimlerChrysler AG (NYSE:DCX - news) has halted production of Voyager minivans at its assembly line in Austria until February 6 as sales slow ahead of the introduction of a new model, officials said on Wednesday.

Production at the Eurostar plant in the Styrian capital Graz was due to begin again on January 10, after a scheduled 19-day holiday shutdown, but the works reopened on Monday only to allow Y2K-related tests to be carried out.

The Graz line produces between 50,000 and 55,000 Voyagers a year for markets outside North America and is gearing up for the introduction of the new version, which Chrysler hopes will help it fend off increasingly fierce competition in the class.

``The new Voyager has already been displayed at the Detroit motor show and that means several potential customers prefer to wait and go straight for the new model,'' Wolfgang Haindl, a local manager and spokesman for chief executive Gary Cash, told Reuters.

Haindl said production at Graz this year would be lower than normal. Spare capacity would allow preparation for the new model, which should begin rolling off the production line in November. Chrysler Voyagers are also produced in Windsor, Ontario and St. Louis, Missouri.

DaimlerChrysler is the fifth largest employer in Austria, with a workforce of 12,000 and annual output of some 130,000 cars including the Mercedes G, Mercedes M and Mercedes E-class models and the Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), January 19, 2000

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