NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Shareholders for Chrysler Corp. and Daimler-Benz Friday overwhelmingly approved the merger of the two automakers, paving the way for the $38 billion transatlantic deal to close later this year.
Nearly 98 percent of voting Chrysler stockholders approved the merger at their vote in Wilmington, Del. while more than 99 percent of Daimler shareholders present or represented at a separate shareholders' meeting in Stuttgart, Germany also approved the deal.
The merger of Chrysler and Daimler-Benz will create the world's fifth-largest automaker.
"We are becoming part of something even bigger and better, something that will make our future even brighter," Chrysler Chairman Robert Eaton said.
He added the merger will "protect what we have built and parlay it into something more, (something) that stands a very good chance of becoming the number one automobile and transportation company in the world."
Daimler-Benz announced plans to merge with Chrysler in May. The combined entity -- which will be called DaimlerChrysler AG -- will compete in virtually every segment of the market, offering everything from $11,000 subcompacts to $100,000 Mercedes sedans.
For Chrysler, the deal means entry to the all-important European market, where the Detroit-based carmaker has been living in the shadows of its cross-town rivals, General Motors Corp. (GM) and Ford Motor Co. (F).
For Daimler-Benz, the merger provides a second line of moderately priced cars and trucks and paves the way for the German company to expand in the United States.
Shares of Chrysler (C) closed at 51-1/2 Friday, up 1-5/8 on the New York Stock Exchange.