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Chrysler now a rising star among automakers

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 30, 2013 at 1:50 pm •  Published: January 30, 2013

Marchionne hopes to beat his goal of selling 500,000 Chrysler cars and trucks outside North America by 2014. But the company has a ways to go. Chrysler sold just 210,000 vehicles — mostly Jeeps — outside the U.S. last year.

Chrysler also gave an update on some future products. It confirmed that an Alfa Romeo car will come to the U.S. from Italy later this year, possibly with a Ferrari-designed engine. A new version of the Chrysler 200 midsize sedan is coming in 2014, and a long-awaited new minivan is due in 2015.

Marchionne says the minivan and other new products have been delayed by a lack of money. But Wall says Chrysler also needs to proceed carefully with the new minivan, since it's a vital product for the company.

"They've owned that segment," Wall says. "The last thing you want to do is make the wrong call and see a flight out of your dealerships."

Chrysler spent $4 billion on capital expenditures last year, and it plans to hold that steady in 2013. Marchionne said the company is spending much more on product development than rivals, but needs to in order to improve its image after years of lackluster offerings.

"We are overspending. We understand this. But we're doing this with a very clear intent," he said.

He also said he wants Fiat to fully own Chrysler "as soon as I can afford it." The companies are inseparable now, he said, and share parts as well as executives.

"I don't see the future of Fiat and Chrysler as being separate, "Marchionne says. "I see them as one entity at some point in time."

Fiat now owns 58.5 percent of Chrysler, with the rest owned by a health care trust for retired union workers. Fiat wants to buy the trust's shares, and the two sides have been fighting over their value in court.

Marchionne praised employees and promised an unspecified amount in bonuses in an email sent Wednesday to Chrysler's 63,643 active workers, many of whom remember the dark days when Chrysler was living on $12.5 billion in government loans. Nearly all of that money has now been repaid.

"There can be no more doubt that our comeback is real," he told workers. "Your phenomenal efforts have put us on a road with an endless horizon in front of us."