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Chrysler plan would cut 1,000 dealers

Chrysler LLC is considering wide-ranging branding changes that would streamline its product offerings and eliminate as many as 1,000 dealers, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

A plan under discussion calls for Chrysler dealers to sell all of the automaker’s passenger cars under the Chrysler name. Dodge dealers would sell only pickup and commercial trucks, and Jeep dealers would sell only Jeep and sport-utility vehicles, three dealers familiar with the discussions told the Journal for its online edition.

One of the dealers said the proposal was one of several being considered, and that the company hoped to have a decision in place by the end of the year, the Journal reported. The dealers asked not to be identified because the plan has not been released publicly.

The plan would allow Chrysler, which seeks to return to profitability by 2009, to drop some of its overlapping products. That in turn would eliminate underperforming dealerships carrying excess inventory and using incentives that cut into profitability.

Chrysler Chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli said in September that he planned to keep the automaker’s three brands but could drop some products as he leads the company through a restructuring. He wouldn’t say which vehicles might go.

Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP bought an 80.1 percent stake in Chrysler from its former corporate partner, Daimler AG, in August.

•The 80-gigabyte Zune media player Microsoft Corp. launched Tuesday has sold out across the Web, to the dismay of online shoppers and delight of the world’s largest software maker.

“Anyone know where I can get a Cabbage Patch Doll … er … I mean Zune?” asks an Inc. customer listed as Paul Taylor on the Web retailer’s message board for the product.

Amazon told Taylor and others that their preordered devices for Nov. 13 shipping would not be sent for 10 more days, according to the message board.

While Web retailers have 4 GB and 8 GB versions of the second-generation Zunes in stock, the 80 GB music player is not available on Amazon, Best Buy or Circuit City’s Web sites.

Microsoft said it prioritized the manufacture of the smaller Zune 4 and Zune 8 devices, and that more of the 80 GB version should be on shelves, physical and virtual, in 10 to 14 days.

Rumors of a manufacturing delay spread across consumer electronics blogs this week.

“I think they were already probably a little later than they would like to be, given Apple’s iPod announcement” of a new line of the market-leading devices in September, said Matt Rosoff, an analyst at the independent research group Directions on Microsoft. “They probably wanted to get anything out the door as soon as they could.”

Quite a few Zunes have “definitely shipped and sold,” and Amazon is being given a limited number each week, said Anya Waring, an Amazon spokeswoman.

Microsoft, for its part, is happy to see such a positive reaction, according to a spokesman.