Sergio Marchionne

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, FCA, will hold a public stock offering to sell off 10% of Ferrari and dole out the remaining 80% of the company to current shareholders.

Piero Ferrari will hold onto his 10%.

Michigan Radio's automotive reporter Tracy Samilton discussed this sale with us.

Samilton says that about 7,000 Ferraris are made a year, which along with their price, gives the vehicle an “unattainable mystique.”

The dispute over stretching that number to make more sales is a contributing factor to the split between FCA and Ferrari.

It's a big day for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The Italian-American company's CEO, Sergio Marchionne,  will outline a strategic plan for the next five years.

The marriage between Chrysler and Fiat surprised many in the auto industry just by surviving.

Now the company is strengthening that union, by exporting its strongest brands around the world.

When Fiat agreed to a kind of corporate shotgun marriage with a fresh-out-of-bankruptcy Chrysler five years ago, a lot of people thought Fiat's CEO Sergio Marchionne was crazy to do it.

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Remember "DaimlerChrysler"? Well, that didn't go so well.

Maybe "Fiat Chrysler Automobiles" will fare much better.

The company that owns Chrysler Group LLC, Fiat SpA, announced the name change today: 

Today, the Board of Directors of Fiat S.p.A. (“Fiat”) approved a corporate reorganization and the formation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (“FCA”) as a fully-integrated global automaker...

In order to establish a true peer to the major global automotive groups, in both scale and capital market appeal, the Board has decided to establish Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., organized in the Netherlands, as the parent company of the Group. FCA’s common shares will be listed in New York and Milan.

The newly formed company's stock will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Current Fiat shareholders will receive one share of FCA for each Fiat share they're holding.

The newly named company released its new logo as well today. A logo they say "lends itself to an extraordinary range of symbolic interpretations."

CEO of Fiat and Chrysler Sergio Marchionne called the corporate reorganization "one of the most important days in my career at Fiat and Chrysler."

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MILAN (AP) - The Italian carmaker Fiat says its acquisition of the final Chrysler stake is complete, making the U.S. car company a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fiat.

Fiat SpA said Tuesday that it closed the deal announced Jan. 1 with the cash payment of $1.75 billion to a union-controlled trust fund. That's on top of an initial $1.9-billion payment, which was arranged through a special distribution from Chrysler. Fiat also made the first installment on an additional $700 million payment.

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Chrysler will start renting office space in a downtown Detroit skyscraper later this year.

Chrysler’s CEO and other business leaders have already re-christened the building “Chrysler House.”

Chrysler will move only about 70 employees into the former Dime building in the heart of downtown Detroit. But CEO Sergio Marchionne says it reflects Chrysler’s commitment to “put down roots” in the city and the region.

Marchionne says the resurgent Chrysler sees its own fortunes tied to Detroit’s.

“The people of Detroit and this region have contributed to making our country great again with their talent, their commitment, and their sweat," Marchionne said. "Detroit is the place that we feel at home. That’s why we’re proud to say that from now on, this building is going to be known as Chrysler House.”

Marchionne also noted Chrysler’s plans to “substantially expand” its industrial presence in the city. The automaker plans to re-open one Detroit assembly plant, and up production at two others by next year.

The move is also another win for the city’s central business district, which has announced some major new tenants in the past few months.

Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert has been one of the key figures pushing to revitalize downtown with his Detroit 2.0 initiative.

“Together we are creating an urban core in downtown Detroit, that will be a spark of the entire region, that will have jobs, growth, and excitement,” Gilbert said.

Marchionne says Chrysler employees will move in once the space is refurbished, likely sometime this summer.

The Detroit Free Press also reports that Chrysler has now committed $3.3 million to help build a light rail project in downtown Detroit. The M-1 rail project will jumpstart with funds from private backers. It's still awaiting approval from city, state, and federal officials.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

GENEVA (AP) - Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says he may shift the date of the Dodge Dart's production launch off of April 1 to "to avoid being jinxed" by an April Fool's Day launch.

The Dodge Dart is the first Chrysler model to use Fiat architecture under the nearly three-year-old alliance.

Marchionne on Tuesday called the Dodge Dart "a huge step forward in terms of moving the brand into the American heartland."

Fiat, which controls a 58.8 percent share of Chrysler, sells the city car 500 in the United States, hitting sales of 2 million last year.

It plans to bring over the 500L - a larger version of the 500 that was launched at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday - in 2013.

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Last week, we reported an Associated Press estimate that predicted a $1,500 profit-sharing bonus for Chryslers hourly employees based on the automaker's earnings figures contractual obligations with workers.

Now an email from Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne to UAW members posted by the Detroit News suggests the bonuses will go out early.

Chrysler is on the mend.  

The Detroit automaker made money last year for the first time since 2005.

The profit -- $183 million -- was modest.  But it would have been much larger, were it not for the company's decision to pay off its federal loans years early.  The payoff resulted in a $500 million charge.

Chrysler also reported strong sales for January of this year, up 44 percent from the same month last year, driven largely by demand for the company’s passenger cars.  

The company expects 2012 to be up to eight times more profitable than 2011.

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Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is striking an upbeat note about the US auto industry—and Detroit—at this year’s Detroit Auto Show.

Detroit’s smallest automaker posted the biggest gains in 2011, with sales soaring 26 percent.

In fact, Chrysler is now doing better than Fiat, the Italian automaker that helped rescue Chrysler from the brink of collapse in 2009.

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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.

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.

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The head of Chrysler and Fiat says the U.S. auto industry can meet tough new fuel efficiency requirements.  The tentative proposal will more than double the miles per gallon average for cars by the year 2025.

Federal officials, automakers, and the UAW agreed to raise the average miles per gallon to 54-and-a-half within the next 14 years. Right now, the average is 25 miles per gallon.  Critics say the new goal may not be technically feasible.  But Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne thinks it is:

"The powertrain guys...  are an incredible resource, an incredible talent.  Let them do their job."

But Marchionne is a skeptic when it comes to the role electric cars will play in meeting the new requirement.  He thinks it will be easier and cheaper to dramatically improve gasoline engines and transmissions.

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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.

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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:

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Just ahead of a visit from U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Chrysler says it intends to pay back the government loans it received by the end of June. Geithner was one of the main architects of the government bailouts for Chrysler and GM.

From the Detroit News:

Chrysler Group LLC today confirmed its intention to repay its $7.4 billion in loans to the U.S. and Canadian governments by the end of June, as long as market and other conditions remain conducive.

In a statement prior to CEO Sergio Marchionne hosting a visit from U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner later today, Chrysler said it plans to repay its government loans with a new term loan facility and newly issued debt securities that will be sold to institutional investors in a private offering.

The Detroit Free Press reports Chrysler wants to pay back the debts because the interest rates on the government loans are high:
 

Marchionne has said he wants to refinance Chrysler’s debt because the interest rate is higher than commercial market rates. The effective interest on the borrowings from the U.S. is as high as 14% and as much as 20% on the Canadian debt.

In order to find investors, the Detroit News reports that senior executives will head out on a "road show" to court financial institutions. They report the automaker is currently working with Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says the Italian auto maker will increase its stake in Chrysler in the coming days.  Fiat currently controls about 25% of the Detroit auto company.  The Wall Street Journal reports Marchionne plans to add another 5%. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne talked about an improving revenue picture ahead of a Fiat stockholders meeting today in Turin, Italy. He also says Fiat may soon increase its stake in Chrysler from 25% to 35% this year.   Fiat took over management of Chrysler 21 months ago, as the Detroit automaker emerged from bankruptcy protection.

Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reports that Marchionne told investors  that he is confident Fiat's 2011 goals will be met:

He explained, moreover, that in 2011, profits will amount to 37 billion(with the possibility of reaching more than 100 billion after 2014, due to the Chrysler integration effect), whereas the management outcome will range from 0.9 and 1.2 billion. Dividends policy will be confirmed (25% of net profits will go into dividends).

The Wall Street Journal quotes Marchionne as saying Fiat will increase this year its share of the European auto marker, where it saw a decline in 2010. 

"We expect a general improvement in trading conditions, with the exception of the passenger-car market in Europe, which will be negatively influenced by declines forecast for Italy and France...Nevertheless, we project that our market share will increase as a result of new model releases programmed for the second half".

Chrysler lost $650 million in 2010, primarily as a result of high interest payments on its government loans.

It's a far different result from the other automaker that received federal bailout loans, General Motors, which posted a healthy profit in 2010.  And GM paid back a significant portion of its loans from cash reserves and proceeds from its Initial Public Stock Offering.

But Chrysler is a much smaller company than GM, and its sales were still weak last year.  That means less revenue to lower the debt burden.   

Chrysler's CEO Sergio Marchionne says, "We’ve got more than a billion in interest costs a year, which are effectively chewing up the operating profits that we’ve got."

Marchionne  says he hopes to secure private loans to pay off the federal loans by the end of this year.

On the plus side, Chrysler has entered the new year with 16 new or significantly remodeled vehicles, just as U.S. auto sales are improving.

Despite not being able to turn a profit, Marchionne says the company met or exceeded all of its targets last year.  He says everyone pitched in to help Chrysler refresh its vehicle lineup in record time, and implement a new cost-saving manufacturing system. 

"I think it would been absolutely inexcusable on our part not to recognize what our people have done," he said during an earnings conference call with analysts and media.

The publication Automotive News reports Chrysler UAW workers will get payments of $750 each.

GM workers are expected to get actual profit-sharing checks.  GM releases its fourth quarter and full 2010 year results later in February.

Ford workers will get an average $5,000 each after the company posted its best profit in 11 years.