DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s aggressive incentive campaign has bought a return to 40% market share in the critical minivan segment. Amid reports the North American operations are foundering, DCC says minivan sales are 60,000 units ahead of last year, on track to exceed 600,000 units again this year. The segment also is tracking to equal or break last year's record 1.6 million sales worldwide.

DCC is offering incentives up to $3,000 to clear out '00 inventory with the '01 entering showrooms. Extra inventory was built up to prevent lost sales in case the new minivan did not meet ambitious launch goals. The goals were met, and the inventory is being sold off.

A spokesman says the new, redesigned model is being well received and a full-scale advertising campaign launched.

Sheer volume and about $4,700 profit/vehicle make minivan sales crucial in reversing forecasts of a $200 million-$500 million operating loss for the Chrysler Group when DaimlerChrysler AG reports third quarter earnings Oct. 26. Expectations operating profit could be as much as $1 billion less than originally anticipated are said to be the reason DC is sending corporate controller James D. Donlon back to the U.S. He is replaced by Rainer Schmueckle. Mr. Donlon replaces Juergen Walker who will run North America's financial services, taking over from Darrell Davis who will head parts and service.

DC executives warned the third quarter would be tough. Draining profits are the launch of the minivan as well as Sebring/Stratus sedan, coupe and convertible. Bills on the horizon include a new Jeep in a new plant in Toledo and the next Dodge Ram full-sized pickup platform, which includes an expensive expansion at a Windsor, Ont., plant.

The bid to slash $5.7 billion over three years includes a review of the $1.2 billion advertising and marketing budget that pits True North Communications Inc. against BBDO Worldwide. True North ups the ante with a strategic investment in Hamburg-based Springer & Jacoby, an independent German company with DC as its largest client. DC is hoping to make a decision by November.

The cuts also reportedly include a reduction of 800 jobs at DC's Stuttgart headquarters.