Chrysler Hopes to Be the Next Big Comeback

General Motors' initial public offering has taken a lot of people by surprise, raising a record $23 billion and repaying part of its $50 billion debt to the US Government.

Widely perceived as the weakest and most troubled carmaker in the US, Chrysler has its own debt to repay for the bailout money it was given after filing for bankruptcy. Unlike GM, Chrysler has several obstacles to overcome before benefiting from Wall Street's support.

Chrysler has been showing signs of recovery lately, gaining in sales volumes and cutting losses. With investors recently starting to show interest in the automotive sector, Chrysler’s CEO Sergio Marchionne is getting his hopes up.

The GM IPO was “great news,” Marchionne told at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

GM has done a lot to open up the market for us. We’ll do a lot better with [our] IPO now,” added Chrysler’s CEO.

Uncertainty surrounds the brand though, with many wondering if there's room in the US market for Chrysler, which fell behind its American rivals, GM and Ford, but also its overseas competition, such as Toyota.

Chrysler’s image is affected among consumers, with vehicles like the old Sebring failing to attract customers appreciation, but also earning the brand a bad image among key arbiters like J.D. Power & Associates and Consumer Reports magazine.

Chrysler is the one area of the domestic industry that hasn’t improved,” said the head of Consumer Reports’ auto test division, David Champion, ranking the carmaker's products among the lowest quality vehicles on the market.

I fully understand the naysayers," he said. "This industry has a big history of over-promising and underdelivering,” added Chrysler’s Marchionne.

The problem with Chrysler is that the new management decided to base the company's revival on pairing the Chrysler and Fiat product lines. This marriage will probably spawn a replacement for the Sebring on a midsize car platform developed in Italy. Meanwhile, for the 2012MY, Chrysler will sell the 200 model, which took just 12 months to be turned around.

Better-looking products won’t solve all of Chrysler’s problems, cautioned analyst Joe Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting. In the longer-term, he stressed, it will depend on improving build quality and vehicle reliability.

But there are signs that Chrysler is finally making headway. And if GM’s IPO was any indication, Wall Street could be ready to reward a turnaround.
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