Monday, January 14, 2008

Nardelli says Chrysler's 2007 better than expected

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli

DETROIT -- With a new 2009 Ram pickup and a herd of bulls as a backdrop on the streets of Detroit, CEO Bob Nardelli said he thinks "Chrysler is on the threshold of recovery."

Breaking from usual auto show protocol, the head of Chrysler LLC gave the assembled press corps a brief and upbeat state-of-the-company speech today before handing the microphone over to co-President Jim Press to introduce the Ram at the auto show.

Nardelli, Press and other executives spent the day trying to convince journalists that the company is on the upswing.

Nardelli said Chrysler finished 2007 ahead of the expectations of its majority owner, Cerberus Capital Management LP.

"We finished the year stronger than the pro forma cashwise," Nardelli said. "We're a billion dollars better than we thought we would be.

"With proper execution, we'll be able to improve our financial position going forward."

Nardelli said further plant closings or reductions are unlikely, although he declined to rule them out.

Chrysler announced an additional 10,000 job cuts last year shortly after the company concluded contract talks with UAW.

"We think we got in front of it from a facility standpoint," Nardelli said. "We made some tough calls."

Nardelli and Press both pointed out that Chrysler was the only Detroit automaker that didn't lose market share in 2007.

Asked where Chrysler might bottom out in its cutbacks, Nardelli replied, "We're not going to chase share, and we're not going to buy share."

Said Press: "We had 12.7 (percent share) going in and 12.7 going out."

He hinted that Chrysler will not be a full-line automaker going forward but will concentrate on making vehicles that customers want. Said Press: "We are husbanding our resources. We can't cover the whole waterfront."

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