Chrysler's Green Mile...
On that fateful weekend morning, the outcome of World War II was to be decided by a single attack near the O'ahu Hawaiian island, on a harbor which used to be full of pearl-producing oysters until the 'mericans established a naval base there.
On a MUCH, much lesser scale, a somewhat similar type of "completely reversing a situation" also happened for the ailing Chrysler brand this last weekend. On Friday, just about every automotive analyst out there was giving the Roman Caesar thumb down for Chrysler's survival as a non-chapter 11 company past the following Thursday.
Well, it just so happens that a highly-unlikely "the irreversible is now reversed" circumstance is now in order. The current state of affairs at Chrysler LLC has turned from a soundtrack consisting of "Taps", the funeral march, to Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive" in just a couple of days.
First there was the long-awaited agreement between Chrysler and the United Automobile Workers union, which established the first foundation for a new Chrysler future. By "future" I mean a car manufacturer which is not plagued by internal disputes between the guys who actually build the cars and the people who are taking the decisions, thus getting paid the big bucks.
No, that's not everything. Chrysler's most helping hand was rumored to come from Europe, or Fiat SpA to be more exact. At first it was only a rumor, then it became a fact. It's been said that Fiat's Sergio Marchionne was in talks with the struggling American manufacturer for buying a pretty hefty percentage from it. It's been also said that Fiat would only do that if Chrysler's viability plan, which has its deadline on Thursday, April 30, would be something worthwhile.
To make matters more interesting, the Obama administration said that it would grant Chrysler an additional $6 billion in loans if the so-called alliance with Fiat seemed to secure Chrysler's future. I should remind you that Chrysler is now barely surviving thanks to the $4 billion it has already received from the government bailout money.
Problem is, Fiat's decision into buying a bunch of Chrysler shares and tying their knots with a company which seems on the verge of applying for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in any second would appear to be a little peculiar, right? Yes and no. Yes, because nobody in their right mind would jump on the same boat with someone who is terminally ill with a contagious disease.
No, because obviously Fiat might have something to gain from the whole shenanigans. Chrysler's remaining US plants, a bunch of patents and their American web of dealerships come to mind. All these assets would really come in handy even if Chrysler goes into a Chapter 11 seizure.
So, what at first may seem as a breath of fresh air for the drowning Chrysler might actually seal its death for good, since Sergio Marchionne actually paid a visit to the US this past week and also shared a few of his ideas with some automotive analysts. His conclusions first appeared very positive for Chrysler, since the guy seemed very optimistic about an alliance.
"I like Chrysler in its totality," Marchionne said. "I see no reason why it cannot happen. I can only confirm our unwavering commitment to get this transaction done. We see benefits to both Fiat and to Chrysler."
Ummm, yeah. I sure hope I'm not going to be right about this, but here is my take on the whole situation anyway: Chrysler will live, but not as Chrysler. In a maximum of five years, every dealership with a Chrysler logo is most likely to sport a Fiat or Alfa Romeo one, while the Chrysler and Dodge brands might disappear a la GM's Pontiac.
Beside Fiat and Alfa Romeo, the only other viable brand from the alleged new conglomerate will probably be Jeep, who are just in the process of updating the best model in their lineup with the new, Mercedes-Benz-based Grand Cherokee. Good news or bad news? You decide, although most of the people who'll say "good" probably have absolutely no emotional connection with the Chrysler brand. No matter the outcome, Chrysler's (alleged) next years appear to be just a walk on the plank...