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Chinese automaker to market in Iran

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BEIJING (AP) — China's biggest domestic automaker, Chery, is opening a factory in Iran, expanding its fast-growing foreign ties soon after announcing ventures with Chrysler and Fiat.

The $370 million plant in Babol in northern Iran will be developed with Iran's biggest automaker, Khodro Co., and Canadian investment firm Solitac, Chery Automobile Co. said on its Web site.

The factory will assemble Chery's compact S21 sedan, also known as the QQ6, from kits supplied by Chery, the statement said. They are to be sold in Iran and surrounding countries.

The venture "can strengthen Chery's competitiveness in Iran or even in the entire Middle East market so as to build up Chery into a 'Chinese brand in the world market," Chery President Yin Tongyao said in the statement, dated Friday.

Chery said it would own 30 percent of the Iranian factory, with Khodro holding 49 percent and Solitac 21 percent.

Chery, based in the eastern city of Wuhu, signed a deal last month with Chrysler Group to make cars for export to the United States and other markets. Last week, Chery and Fiat Group announced a deal to produce Fiat and Alfa Romeo models for sale in China.

China's small but ambitious automakers are eager to expand abroad and have been forging ties with foreign partners in hopes of improving their technology and market access. China overtook Japan last year to become the world's No. 2 vehicle market after the United States.

Chery also assembles vehicles with partners in Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Uruguay and Indonesia.

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