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Big Three Face Uncertain Drive Overseas

Ford's (F - Get Report) sales in North America comprised 46% of its total auto sales in the first nine months of 2007. It posted a loss of $1.5 billion from its automotive operations in North America for the period.

But Ford Europe -- including its Premier Auto Group, which is on the selling block -- had a $1.4 billion profit. The company's Asia Pacific and Africa division recorded earnings of $130 million.

Chrysler, which has been taken private by Cerberus Capital Management, garners just 8% of its vehicle sales from overseas, but observers say its new private-equity owners view opportunities abroad as its salvation.

In July, Chrysler signed a deal with China's largest independent automaker, Chery, which will make a line of small cars for sale under the Dodge brand. It's the first time a U.S. automaker has outsourced the production of an entire vehicle to a Chinese company.

Chrysler's Chery deal has yet to produce a vehicle, but a spokeswoman for the company said it has a number of other joint ventures in China. Its sales in that country were up 21% year to date at the end of November, at nearly 9,000 units, though that still represents a small portion of Chrysler's sales of 216,214 vehicles outside the U.S. for the period.

In Russia -- an auto market that's poised to grow 20% this year and surpass Germany as Europe's largest in 2011 -- Chrysler has no manufacturing presence, but it does have sales channels. Its sales there were up 36% for the year at the end of November, at 5,516 vehicles. Chrysler has a relationship with Gaz, the country's No. 2 automaker, and Chrysler execs have expressed an interest in expanding it.
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