The smallest of the Big Three, Chrysler LLC, which was recently bailed out from the brink of collapse by a $4 billion federal loan, plans to introduce 24 new models in the next four years, and isn't setting itself up to be acquired.
Speaking at an interview at the Detroit auto show, Chrysler's CEO Robert Nardelli said that his company is committed to being a "viable," standalone company. He insisted that the company's actions should not be interpreted as trying positioning the company for sale. Taking to the media at a briefing, Nardelli said, "We reduced layers, expanded job responsibility...no one around the table should read this as us trying to position it for sale."
Chrysler had, on 26 November, announced cutting 5,000 salaried jobs, and is now reported to be working towards doing more than living on federal life support while trying to find a buyer.
Nardelli said that in order to get the rest of the $7 billion loan request, Chrysler would need to demonstrate its viability. So far, it has received $4 billion on 31 December. The company is reported to be working on a plan to reduce its debt and negotiate concession from the United Auto Workers union.
Despite the departures of senior executives at the company, including the chiefs of purchasing and marketing, the company is still working on the development of advanced vehicles, media reports quoted company president Tom LaSorda as saying. He also said that the leadership team at the auto maker is "very, very solid", and told reporters that Chrysler would bring in three or four models this year. These could be "redone" models as well, he was quoted as saying.
Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP had acquired 80.1 per cent of Chrysler from Daimler AG in August 2007. Chrysler's sales dropped 30 per cent last year in its home market of the US that notches up almost three-fourths of its global deliveries. Its decline was far ahead of the 18 per cent drop posted by the rest of the US auto industry, which left the company with little option but to reduce production capacity by 1.2 million vehicles and eliminate 32,000 jobs in 2008. Chrysler's worldwide sales were reported at 2 million.
All 30 Chrysler plants have been idled until at least 19 January, reports said, in a bid to allow dealers to reduce inventories that have been stockpiling for some months now.
Dispelling rumours about a possible merger with rival General Motors, Nardelli said that Chrysler is interested in mergers and alliances, especially those involving an exchange of products. GM had closed negotiations on a possible alliance in November 2008.
In a separate interview with the media, Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche said that Daimler AG is still open to selling its residual 19.9 per cent stake in Chrysler LLC to Cerberus Capital Management LP, though it cannot be sure whether an agreement would be reached.
November 2008 had seen a souring of relations between Daimler and Cerberus, with the latter accusing Daimler of misleading the private equity firm before the German auto maker sold the lion's share of the company in 2007, a charge Daimler had termed as baseless.