Chrysler Group announced that it purchasedmore than $3 billion from minority suppliers for goods and services in2002. The total amount represented about 11 percent of its totalpurchasing spend, maintaining Chrysler Group's position as one of theindustry leaders in terms of percentage of dollars spent with minoritybusiness enterprises.According to the company, the increase from 10 percent in 2001 toapproximately 11 percent in 2002, demonstrates Chrysler Group's commitmentto minority suppliers -- despite a difficult economic environment. Since1983, when Chrysler Corp. established its Diversity Supplier Developmentprogram, the Company has sourced more than $21 billion to minoritysuppliers. Currently, more than 300 suppliers in Chrysler Group's supplybase are minority companies."Chrysler Group has made a steady commitment toward building and developingour minority supplier base," said Tom Sidlik, Chrysler Group executive vicepresident -- Procurement and Supply, and chairman of the National MinoritySupplier Development Council (NMSDC) Executive Committee. "In today'schanging society, we realize that Diversity is not just a socialresponsibility, but a business imperative. It is our belief that oursupply base should be a direct reflection of our customer base."Chrysler Group says it has several initiatives in place to develop and enhanceminority supplier development, including a mentoring program where ChryslerGroup Procurement & Supply executives work directly with minority suppliersto assist in their growth and development. The goal of each relationshipis to help suppliers cut costs, improve quality and increase new businessopportunities outside of Chrysler Group.The Company also has a "Matchmaker" program that pairs minority supplierswith Tier 1 suppliers to increase business opportunities among the twocompanies. The program is entering its third year. Since its inception,it has generated $30 million in additional business opportunities tominority suppliers.Chrysler Group says it has been recognized on a national level for its DiversitySupplier Development when it received "Company of the Year" from the NMSDCin 2000. In 2002, Chrysler Group was recognized by the Michigan MinorityBusiness Development Council as "Company of the Year" for the thirdconsecutive year.