Fledgling truck manufacturer Bering Truck Corp. has shut its doors at least temporarily as it prepares to file an anti-trust lawsuit in U.S. federal court against its South Korean partner Hyundai Motor Co. — and possibly DaimlerChrysler as well, which owns a large stake in Hyundai.

Manufacturing operations have been suspended “indefinitely” at Bering's factory in Front Royal, Va., while it pursues legal actions and resolves international arbitration efforts already under way between itself and Hyundai in Toronto.

The dispute stems from DaimlerChrysler's efforts to terminate Bering's exclusive U.S. manufacturing and distribution agreement with Hyundai.

In 1998, Bering Truck Distribution LLC was formed as the exclusive commercial truck distributor for Hyundai, which builds and ships ready-made cabovers to Bering's Virginia plant. Bering subsequently built a 200,000-sq.-ft. factory in Front Royal based in part on its exclusive distributor agreement.

However, in June of last year, DaimlerChrysler bought a 10% stake in Hyundai for $428 million, with the intent to build and distribute light- and medium-duty commercial class trucks on a global basis. That conflicted directly with Bering's agreement to be the exclusive distributor of Hyundai-badged cabs in the U.S. — one that was bound to result in some sort of showdown between Bering, Hyundai and DaimlerChrysler.

“The Bering Truck companies want their dealers and their customers to know that we explored all options in trying to continue the distribution of our commercial trucks in the U.S.,” said William Anderson, president and CEO of Bering, in a press release. “But Hyundai rejected each and every proposal [we] made.”

Bering's announcement came at the same time Hyundai and DaimlerChrysler agreed to set up a $180-million joint venture in Korea to produce truck engines by 2004. The venture will be based at Hyundai's Chonju plant in western Korea and will initially make 900-series truck engines.

For daily trucking news, go to www.fleetowner.com