In a move to bolster its chances in the global market, Chrysler Corp. recently launched a right-hand-drive (RHD) version of the Neon small car. The RHD Neon is built at Belvidere, IL, and shares the assembly line with left-hand-drive (LHD) 2- and 4-door models.

In the past, U.S. automakers haven't made much of an effort in RHD markets. Yet 22% of world volume--excluding North America--is right-hand drive.

Export of the RHD Neons began May 15. The vehicles will be sold in Australia, the Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand and the United Kingdom. RHD Neons account for about 9% of Belvidere's 1,064-unit daily production, a rate that would allow for a total of 260,000 units annually, Chrysler officials predict. Since Feb. 25, 1996, 2,418 RHD Neons have come off the line.

The Japanese Ministry of Transportation (JMOT) has given the Belvidere plant permission to certify the Neons prior to shipment to Japan. This saves Chrysler the hassle of inspections and delivery delays encountered once the cars reach the island. Belvidere is one of only two domestic plants the JMOT has sanctioned to precertify vehicles. The other is Chrysler's Toledo, ohm, facility were the Jeep Cherokee and Wrangler are produced.

Chrysler currently sells its vehicles in 100 countries; RHD and LHD Neons combined are exported to more than 60 nations.