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7 For '07: Phil LeBeau, Autos

Phil LeBeau, Autos

Dieter Zetsche may be the Manchurian candidate: as the DaimlerChrysler CEO nears a deal to sell small Chinese-made cars under the Chrysler brand, LeBeau predicts it won't be long before those cars are available in the U.S.

In CNBC's "7 For '07" series, our auto-industry blogger and beat reporter also predicts that General Motors, which is finally back in the black, may find rough going – again – as Toyota Motor churns out SUVs from its new Texas plant and the posh Lexus strengthens its luxury-model position. He says Toyota will pass Ford Motor in global sales, and Ford – with its bread-and-butter truck lines losing market share – may seek an alliance, maybe even a merger. A possible partner: Chrysler. LeBeau notes industry scuttlebutt that Zetsche may seek a spinoff or sale of the U.S. arm.

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