The third largest US auto maker, Chrysler Llc. has filed for bankruptcy. Its management says the company, which has signed an alliance agreement with Fiat SpA that was pushed by President Barack Obama, will be able to complete the bankruptcy proceedings in less than 60 days. CNBC-TV18’s Maria Bartiromo caught up with Robert Nardelli, chairman and chief executive officer of Chrysler, for an exclusive interview. Edited excerpts:
Have you ever seen a bankruptcy take 60 days?
No, I haven’t.
Is it fair to say it is going to take one or two years?
Road ahead: Robert Nardelli, chief executive officer of Chrysler Llc. Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg
I think this will—I am not an expert in bankruptcy and I don’t want to become an expert in bankruptcy—and I really think we can move through this quickly, Maria.
What’s quickly, a year?
Our goal...would be to get through (this) thing in the next couple of months, 35, 45-60 days.
Many people I have spoken with today and over the last couple of days say this is an extraordinary statement and it is just not going to happen. But you think that’s doable?
I would say the one difference and probably the single biggest difference is that the president of the US has certainly set that as a challenge for all of us involved and today he has been very successful in delivering on his commitments.
If we were to see the government own 50% of General Motors...do you feel Ford and Chrysler are at a big disadvantage if the government owns such a big stake in your main competitor?
I hope that restructuring process for GM is tremendously successful with the US Treasury and Auto Task Force involvement and again and a lot of same constituents that we were involved in because the auto industry, primarily through the supply network, needs to be healthy. And GM is such a large player, we need them to be successful and the other competitors in the US need them to be successful so we continue here with uninterrupted supply of components, so that we can continue to manufacture cars and supply to the consumers.
You got obviously an onslaught coming at you, fuel-efficient cars coming from the Japanese and the Koreans. What are you going to do in the meantime to offset all of that competition coming at you in a very tough environment?
In some cases we will take an existing platform and put it through the homologation, which means that it has to (meet) all of the safety and environmental regulations here in the US. One of the first products we are looking at is the Fiat-500 which is an A-Segment platform that will allow us to do that, now Fiat has experience and we have experience in doing that in 16-18 months, that’s point one.
Point two here is some of the powertrain technologies, their fuel efficiencies and transmissions are things we can adapt into existing platforms that will allow us to improve our fuel efficiencies to meet the current and future environmental regulations...
Third, again I think the big point here for us is that, as you know, we have already announced four or five platforms that we have been able to adapt our electrical technologies. So we will use range-extended vehicle technology in existing platforms, which will allow us to get to the market much more quickly than developing an entire new platform that’s electrified.
There was a suggestion coming out of Washington that it’s due to a small number of speculators—I assume they are talking about the investors who hold the senior debt—that Chrysler is going down this road. Do you agree with that?
Well, it is somewhat true. Obviously, my preference would have been not to file (for) a Chapter 11 (bankruptcy), my preference would have been to be able to get all this negotiated outside the court. But at the end of the day, let me assure you that in the wee hours of the morning, last night and throughout the entire 2 weeks, our goal was to try to get a consensus so we could work with the government and get the appropriate funding to work through the next 4, 6, 8-9 weeks and then emerge on a new company basis. So, obviously, it didn’t work out and so it’s the card we were dealt, we are going to work through it.
I am convinced, certainly, with the president of the US’ support that we move through this quickly and that we have this surgical bankruptcy, that we come out the other side and be more leaner, stronger and more formidable.