The French invasion of America's automobile industry accelerated today as Peugeot-Citroen and the beleaguered Chrysler Corporation announced that talks have begun on a wide range of possible marketing, production and sales ventures.
The French concern, which is the world's 17th largest industrial corporation, also agreed immediately to loan $100 million to Chrysler on a short-term basis.
Separately, American Motors Corporation -- whose largest stockholder is France's Renault -- announced plans to begin selling a new four-wheel-drive car within six months. At AMC's annual meeting here, a second Renault executive also was elected to the U.S. company's board.
Government-owned Renault opened French inroads in Detroit under an agreement formalized last year to invest $150 million in AMC in exchange for 22.5 percent of the U.S. firm's stock.
Chrysler officials said today they hoped to have an agreement on future cooperation with Peugeot-Citroen by June 1, including possible production in this country by Chrysler of a new Peugeot car.
Today's announcement ended months of speculation about what foreign company the financially weak American firm might seek as a busi-partner. One industry report last year linked Chrysler and Volkswagen but that proved to be erroneous.
Peugeot-Citroen is a natural choice, because Chrysler sold its European business to the French company last year as part of an overall retrenchment and received 1.8 million shares of Peugeot stock in exchange. That stock will be used as collateral for the loan announced today.
Chrysler, which this week expects to announce a 1979 loss of $1 billion or more, is fast running out of money. The federal government has approved a package of $1.5 billion in guaranteed loans, but the startup date for this aid is not until April 1. Arvid Jouppi, an analyst here for the investment firm of John Muir & Co., said the loan today "indicates confidence of Peugeot in Chrysler" and provides important interim financing for the U.S. firm.
But he said he does not think joint engineering of cars by the two companies will take place before 1983.
While no final agreement has been reached, Chrysler officers detailed an extensive array of proposed operations with Peugeot including:
Development of a new passenger car, to be built in this country by Chrysler but based on studies by Peugeot, as well as cooperation on a possible new light commercial vehicle.
Assistance by Chrysler to strengthen Peugeot-Citroen distribution and sales network in this country and Canada, for the current line of imported middle range and upper range sedans and station wagons. Chrysler has about 4,500 dealers while the French company has 300 today.
Help by Chrysler in adapting models of the French company to the North American market.
The American Motors annual meeting, meanwhile, was a decidedly upbeat gathering. Chairman Gerald Meyers revealed that since success of the four-wheel-drive Eagle line had been "so intense," the company is bringing forth an offspring.
Appropriately, the new car will be called the Eaglet. Meyers and other officials would say little more about the new car other than it will be a member of the Eagle family and produced at Kenosha, Wisc. The Eagle line was introduced for the 1980 model year and has been an instant success.
Meyers dismissed "gloom and doom" in his industry, saying a "small car revolution" has started.
The "main inescapable point" of the 1980s is that Americans will be paying world prices for fuel and the current North American car and truck fleet therefore is obsolete, Meyers told the shareholders. Consumers will buy vehicles based on miles per gallon instead of cost, styling, comfort and even convenience, he forecast.