Chrysler

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Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the two-class pay system currently in place will have to be replaced with a single wage system in the next round of contract talks with the United Auto Workers.

The UAW and Chrysler just approved a 4-year contract with the two-class pay system in place, so the next opportunity to revise the system won't come until the next round of contract negotiations.

More from the Associated Press:

Negotiations for that contract start in 2015.

He says the current system creates two classes of workers. New workers in the bottom tier make about half as much money as longtime UAW members.

Marchionne didn't say how he would come up with one wage. But it's likely he'll try to reduce the pay of top-tier workers. General Motors and Ford could follow and pay could be cut for most of the UAW's 112,000 members.

UAW workers approved a four-year contract with Chrysler on Wednesday. It includes raises for bottom-tier workers.

More on what Marchionne said comes from Changing Gears reporter, Pete Bigelow:

The structure is, “not something that can go on for a long period of time,” he said on a conference call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings. Marchionne continued, saying, two-tiers is “not a viable structure on which to build our industrial footprint.”

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson provided some insights into the two-class pay system in a piece she produced last year for Changing Gears.

At the time, the starting rate for a "two-tier" worker was $14 an hour. The new contracts have pushed the starting rate for "two-tier" workers above $19 an hour.

Chrysler made a profit in the third quarter of this year.

The news comes a day after Chrysler workers narrowly approved a new four-year contract.

The $212 million profit is small compared to Detroit rival Ford, which made $1.6 billion in the same period.

But it’s the second quarterly profit this year for Chrysler, and a sign that its recovery from the 2009 bankruptcy is gathering some steam.

In fact, Chrysler would have made a profit last quarter too, were it not for one-time costs associated with paying off its federal loans.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the just-ratified contract with the UAW will support the company in its growth plans.

The contract includes a much smaller signing bonus than the one Ford union members will get.

That was likely one of the main reasons the contract was so narrowly approved.

Ricardo Giaviti / Flickr

On the heels of the approval of a four-year contract with the United Auto Workers comes news of a 3rd quarter profit from Chrysler.

The company reported a profit of $212 million for the 3rd quarter (July, August, and September). The company had reported a second quarter profit earlier this year ($181 million for the months of April, May, June).

From Chrysler's press release:

Chrysler Group LLC today reported preliminary net income of $212 million for the third quarter, compared with a net loss of $84 million a year ago, as the Company continues to increase sales and benefit from its alliance with Fiat S.p.A.

In the third quarter of 2011, net revenue was $13.1 billion, a 19 percent increase from the third quarter of 2010, driven by increased demand for Chrysler Group’s 16 all-new or significantly refreshed cars and trucks.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said these profits show the company is back on track:

"In the third quarter, Chrysler Group achieved increased sales and positive financial results, totally in line with the plan we laid out in November 2009. And in October, together with the United Auto Workers, we crafted a solid four-year contract that will support us in our growth plans and significantly reward our employees for their contribution to the revival of Chrysler," said Marchionne.

The Detroit Free Press reports the company "predicted it would make between $200 million and $500 million this year."

Update, 6:30 pm:

Speaking with reporters on a late afternoon conference call, UAW President Bob King says its International Executive Board followed the union’s constitution, which gives skilled trades workers a separate right of ratification on skilled trades issues.

But King says the board investigated the reasons skilled trades workers voted the contract down. He says according to Facebook posts and leaflets, the main reasons were general economic ones affecting all workers, such as bonuses - and not issues specific to skilled trades workers.

"You want to protect the rights of the minority, but you can’t let the minority overrule the rights of the majority," King said.

King says with all three contracts with the Detroit automakers now finalized, the union will turn its attention to organizing efforts, and the 2012 elections.

Here's the breakout of the vote, according to the UAW:

Ford Motor Company fell from grace in a Consumer Reports survey this year.

The survey predicts reliability of new models, based on past performance of older versions of the cars.

Ford dropped from 10th place to 20th.

David Champion is with Consumer Reports. 

He says the MyFordTouch and MyLincoln Touch in-car communications systems work poorly.

And a new transmission in the Ford Focus and Fusion doesn’t work well, especially at parking lot speeds.

The United Auto Workers is expected to announce the results of voting on a tentative contract with Chrysler by Wednesday.

Chrysler is the last of the Detroit Three to reach a settlement on a new, four-year contract.

Kristin Dziczek is with the Center for Automotive Research.

She said so far, the vote looks very close.  Union members with Chrysler may have been expecting more than they got, she said.

This is coming on the heels of two very strong agreements with General Motors and with Ford that had more cash and fewer contingencies.

Entry-level workers, who receive about 1$14 an hour now, would get a raise of about $4 an hour, phased in over the four years of the contract.

Workers would get an immediate signing bonus of $1,750.00, with the promise of another $1,750.00 dollars if Chrysler meets certain financial goals.

If the contract is rejected, it goes to binding arbitration, because of an agreement the union made with Chrysler during the company’s bankruptcy.

There was a fair amount of anxiety in automotive circles over the new contracts hammered out between the United Auto Workers union and Ford and General Motors. GM remains the largest Detroit automaker, and this was the first post-bankruptcy contract.

The pact didn’t give workers as much as some had hoped for, and it did nothing to eliminate the new two-tier wage system that many old-time union members especially hate.

Staff / Chrysler Media

Chrysler union workers vote this week on a tentative new contract. 

Ford workers approved their contract on Wednesday, 63-percent in favor to 37-percent against. 

But the contract was narrowly rejected at the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne.  Bob King is President of the union. 

"I don’t feel bad or in any way negative towards those workers because they voted against it," says King.  "I think they expressed honest, legitimate concerns.   I have the same concerns.   I don’t like a system where people on the same assembly line are making a different rate of pay."

Chrysler and the United Auto Workers have agreed to terms for a four-year contract deal.

Chrysler is the last of Detroit’s three carmakers to reach a tentative agreement with the UAW.

The agreement follows some tense negotiations between the UAW and Chrysler, which is majority-owned by the Italian automaker Fiat.

Chrysler is smaller and more indebted than its fellow U.S. automakers, but the UAW sought a contract with similar terms to those it got from GM and Ford.

Like in the GM and Ford contracts, entry-level Chrysler workers will get a wage hike under this deal. Workers also stand to get more in bonus pay and profit-sharing.

“The overall framework, the overall labor cost agreement [compared to GM and Chrysler] is very, very comparable,” said UAW President Bob King. “We tweaked them, shifted them a little bit in each case, because of the specific needs of the individual companies.”

Also like the GM and Ford contracts, this agreement focuses more on creating and retaining jobs for U.S. workers than on boosting worker pay. Chrysler says it will invest $4.5 billion in U.S. production, and create 2100 U.S. jobs.

King thinks most of his members understand the focus on future investment.

“Our members overwhelmingly supported the goal of bringing more jobs into our plants,” King says.  “And our members understand overall that they can’t be secure unless there’s product and investment long-term in their facility.”

UAW officials hope to get Chrysler workers to ratify the deal within the next two weeks.

GM UAW workers ratified their contract by a roughly 2-to-1 margin. Ford workers are still voting.

Chrysler Group and the United Auto Workers have reached a deal on a new four-year contract that creates 2,100 new jobs.

The union says in a statement Wednesday that Chrysler will invest $4.5 billion in its plants under terms of the deal.

The union gave few other details.

But the agreement is expected to be similar to deals reached earlier with General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.

Workers at those companies gave up pay raises for most union members in exchange for profit-sharing payments.

The Chrysler deal covers 26,000 workers.

Contract talks between the United Auto Workers union and Chrysler resume Tuesday morning.  That’s after after negotiators were unable to reach a deal over the weekend. 

The UAW has asked its local presidents to come to Detroit on Wednesday.  That could mean an agreement is imminent. 

Top officials with the United Auto Workers are briefing local union leaders on contract talks with Chrysler today, after negotiators were unable to come to an agreement over the weekend.

A statement from Chrysler says talks ended this morning so the UAW could meet with its National Council.

Chrysler is the last of the Detroit Three to reach a tentative contract with the UAW.  General Motors workers last week ratified a new four-year contract by a margin of two-to-one.

Ford workers are voting this week on a new contract.

Both the contract at Ford and General Motors provide for a pay increase for the company's entry-level workers.

But Chrysler has many more of the entry-level workers than Ford and GM.  Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has called the pay increase at Ford and GM "overly generous."

Analysts expect the auto industry to post very good sales numbers on Monday.  

IHS Global Insight automotive analyst Rebecca Lindland says September was a very good month at car dealerships.   She says the number of car buyers increased last month.  At the same time, Honda and Toyota were finally able to get more vehicles to showrooms, as the disruptive effects of last March’s earthquake and tsunami began to fade.

Fiat USA

MILAN (AP) - The ratings agency Moody's has downgraded the credit rating Fiat SpA citing financial risks tied to the integration with Chrysler Group LLC.

Moody's on Wednesday downgraded the Italian automaker to Ba2 from Ba1.

The ratings agency said it expects integration of the two automakers will mean they will have "to support each other in the event of financial difficulty."

Fiat took an initial 20 percent stake in Chrysler in exchange for engine technology and management prowess. It currently holds a 53.5 percent share.

Moody's said it made the downgrade even though Fiat does not guarantee Chrysler's debt, and that the two companies' finances remain separate.

There’s a great deal of celebration going on over the fact that General Motors and the United Auto Workers union have reached tentative agreement on a new, four-year contract.

In the old days, what this would have meant was speedy ratification, followed by a similar settlement with Chrysler within perhaps two weeks, and then Ford maybe a month later.

That was the era of pretty much one-size-fits all pattern bargaining agreements. But that was before the near-death and the resurrection of Chrysler and GM, and it’s now a different world.

I spent some time yesterday with one of the best industry analysts around -- Kristin Dziczek, who heads the labor and industry group at CAR, the non-profit Center for Automotive Research based in Ann Arbor. Dziczek knows the management spokesmen and the economists, and has friends and relatives who are in the UAW. She eats, breathes, and sleeps this stuff.

A top Chrysler executive says Fiat and Chrysler have made good progress at merging their two cultures. 

The Italian car company was put in charge of the Detroit car company two years ago. 

This is Chrysler’s third attempt after failed mergers with German car company Daimler and an investment group, Cerberus Capital. 

Chrysler’s head of World Class Manufacturing Massimo Risi says it helps the companies have a lot in common, especially the ability to survive.

UAW

The United Auto Workers formally kicked off negotiations today with Detroit automakers.

Current UAW contracts with Chrysler, GM, and Ford expire in mid-September.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports that Chrysler Group LLC management and the UAW emphasized unity at the press event today:

Scott Garberding is a Senior Vice President for Chrysler. He says the company and the UAW worked together to get Chrysler through bankruptcy. Garberding says it’s important for the new contract to recognize the sacrifices Chrysler workers have made.

"And at the same time, establishing a legacy for our organization to ensure that we remain competitive long-term. And I can’t think of a better team that could collectively come together and craft that type of arrangement. "

Last week, UAW President Bob King said he wanted workers to see the benefits of increased profit sharing. The UAW is also expected to seek wage increases for entry-level workers, and job guarantees. After huge layoffs, King said remaining workers want to count on their jobs:

“They want stability,” he said. “They want to know they’ll be working next week and next year, and that they will be able to send their kids to college.”

Talks are expected to take at least a month, and if things don't go well in negotiations with Chrysler and GM, the UAW is compelled to enter into binding arbitration. The UAW cannot strike under the terms of the government bailouts:

This year, for the first time, the UAW is bound by an agreement that it reached with Chrysler and General Motors in 2009 that requires the two sides to enter into binding arbitration if they reach an impasse.

King said Chrysler and the UAW have formed a committee to set up the ground rules for arbitration, even though he said that is a last resort.

“If arbitration happens … then I would say we haven’t done our job,” King said.

The UAW can, however, strike against Ford Motor Company. Analysts are curious to see if UAW negotiators are able to secure better terms with Ford.

Ricardo Giaviti / Flickr

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Treasury Department says it has ended its investment in Chrysler LLC after Italian automaker Fiat SpA purchased the U.S. government's remaining holdings in the auto company.

Fiat paid $560 million to the Treasury Department for the government's 98,000 shares. Fiat has run the company since it emerged from bankruptcy protection in June 2009.

Treasury provided a total of $12.5 billion to Chrysler and its financing arm after the recession hampered auto sales and sent Chrysler and General Motors to the brink of collapse. The funds came from the government's $700 billion bank bailout fund.

Since then, $11.2 billion of the assistance has been repaid, Treasury says. Chrysler repaid $5.1 billion in loans from the government in May. Treasury said it likely won't recover the remaining $1.3 billion.

Greg Mason / Flickr

Chrysler says it will invest $114 million in the Trenton North engine plant and save about 268 jobs.

From Reuters:

Chrysler will repurpose about one-fifth, or 400,000-square feet, of the Trenton North engine plant to make parts for the Pentastar engine made at the Trenton South plant.

The plant was closed last month, but the need for these parts has increased as Chrysler replaces seven V-6 engines with the new Pentastar V-6 engine, Brian Harlow, head of powertrain manufacturing said in a statement.

"This investment has also given Trenton North, which has been building engines for nearly 60 years, a new lease on life," Harlow said.

The city of Trenton gave Chrysler some tax breaks in exchange for investing in and reopening part of the Trenton North engine plant.

Crain's Detroit Business reports the tax break as a "50 percent tax abatement for Chrysler for 12 years."

Trenton Mayor, Gerald Brown, said he's happy Chrysler has given the plant a new lease on life. From the Detroit News:

Trenton Mayor Gerald Brown said the city is thrilled Chrysler is reopening the plant...

On Monday, the Trenton City Council approved a tax break for the $114 million project.

"My administration worked very hard to come to an agreement that will provide the city with long-term stability at the site, additional jobs and tax base improvements while further enhancing the relationship that Trenton and Chrysler have enjoyed since the 1950s. Trenton truly is Chrysler Town and we are proud of it," Brown said.

Rosh Sillars / Flickr

The CEO of Fiat and Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, says he is not in talks to buy the Chrysler stake held by a trust for retired autoworkers.

Marchionne told reporters on the sidelines of a new Fiat car launch Tuesday that the "easiest route" for the trust to convert its stake into cash is when Chrysler goes public. He said that the IPO would not be this year because "the market is not there."

Fiat raised its stake in Chrysler to 52 percent with a deal earlier this month to buy the U.S. Treasury's 6 percent interest in Chrysler for $500 million. Fiat hopes to raise its stake to 57 percent by the end of the year. Marchionne says he is in talks to buy the Canadian government's remaining stake.

Chrysler repaid $7.6 billion to the U. S. and Canadian governments back in May.

Recently, General Motors announced the addition of 2,500 jobs to its Hamtramck plant and plans to invest $130 million in a new data center in Warren, Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Jenn White helps us get a look at the political implications of the automotive industry’s progress.  She spoke with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Republican state Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

(photo by Bridget Bodnar/Michigan Radio)

President Obama congratulated a crowd of Chrysler auto workers today in Toledo for their hard work as he stood surrounded by an assembly line of Jeeps. He stressed the importance of the 2008 bailout of Chrysler and G-M to the rest of the auto industry, including Ford:

Ricardo Giaviti / Flickr

The majority owner of Chrysler, Fiat, is anxious to rid the company of any government ties.

Last week, the company refinanced it's TARP loans from the U.S. government.

Then they announced plans to buy the U.S. government's remaining 6% stake.

Fiat says it will buy the U.S. Treasury’s 6% stake in Chrysler.   

The announcement means Chrysler will be free of government influence long before General Motors will be. 

Fiat and the U.S. Treasury will negotiate the price over the next ten business days.   Fiat will own 52% of Chrysler once the deal goes through.     

Sheldon Stone is a restructuring expert with Amherst Partners.  He says the negotiations should go smoothly, since the federal government is highly motivated to get out of the car business.

The U.S. Army / Flickr

President Barack Obama will visit a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio, next week to discuss the car maker's repayment of a federal loan that saved the company from financial disaster two years ago.

The White House says Obama will visit the auto plant on June 3.

Chrysler announced Tuesday the repayment of $5.9 billion in U.S. loans and $1.7 billion in loans from the governments of Canada and Ontario. It covers most of the federal bailout money that saved the company after it nearly ran out of cash in 2009 and went through a government-led bankruptcy.

The company recently posted its first profit in five years and has bolstered its lineup of Jeeps and cars.

User: Wigwam Jones / Flickr

Now that Chrysler paid off its debt six years ahead of schedule, Michigan congressman Gary Peters is inviting Senator John McCain to see the automotive industry recovery for himself. In 2009 McCain said he’d like to meet anyone who believed Chrysler would survive.

Peters says he wants McCain to see the progress Chrysler has made in two years.

user socialisbetter / Flickr

Chrysler got itself out from under the higher interest loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments today - sooner than it had planned to.

Company officials are celebrating today at Chrysler's Sterling Heights assembly plant.

From the Detroit News:

The automaker has repaid $5.1 billion in loans, as well as $1.8 billion in interest and other fees, releasing Chrysler from all monetary commitments to the governments less than two years after the bailouts kept them in business. Chrysler went to the capital market for lower-interest financing to get out from under the government loans that carried interest rates as high as 20 percent. The refinancing — which is much like refinancing a home mortgage — will save more than $300 million annually.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said: 

Chrysler’s early repayment of its outstanding TARP loans is an important step in the turnaround of this company and the resurgence of the auto industry. Because President Obama made the tough decision to stand behind and restructure the auto industry, America’s automakers are growing stronger, making new investments, and creating new jobs today throughout our nation’s industrial heartland."

The U.S. Treasury gave a total of $12.5 billion to Chrysler under TARP’s Automotive Industry Financing Program. After today's payment, Treasury officials say "Chrysler has returned more than $10.6 billion of that amount to taxpayers through principal repayments, interest, and canceled commitments." The U.S. Treasury continues to hold a 6.6 percent stake in Chrysler. Those shares could be sold when Chrysler's stock goes public or if the Treasury decides to sell its shares to another investor. In their statement today, Treasury officials said the government is "unlikely to fully recover its remaining outstanding investment of $1.9 billion in Chrysler."

Ricardo Giaviti / Flickr

Chrysler will pay back its federal loans in full today. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports:

It's another milestone in the company's long struggle to recover from bankruptcy. Chrysler will wire-transfer nearly $6 billion to the U.S. Treasury and $1.5 billion to the governments of Canada and Ontario. Chrysler used some cash from Fiat for the transaction - and refinanced the rest with loans from private banks and investors.

The move will save Chrysler $300 million a year in interest and is one more step towards independence from the government.

The U.S. Treasury still holds about eight and a half percent of Chrysler stock. Fiat could end up buying that stock in the future. As of today, Fiat owns forty-six percent of Chrysler.

The news is making headlines this morning:

Ford, GM and Chrysler are getting along with their suppliers better than they used to.  

But an annual study says the companies have a ways to go to catch up with their Japanese counterparts. 

John Henke is President of Planning Perspectives, which studies the working relationship between parts suppliers and their customers, the car companies. 

He says that relationship has long been adversarial for the Detroit Three, which means suppliers often don’t give them the best prices for parts, or the first crack at new technologies.

$3 million in interest per day.

That's how much Chrysler paid in interest on its government loans last year according to the Associated Press.

Those high interest rates, and the stigma of being financed by the government, are driving Chrysler to pay off the government loans.

Sources told the Associated Press a deal could be reached next Tuesday:

Chrysler is close to repaying its government bailouts.

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