Mon, Jan 27, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Fiat’s purchase of Chrysler revs up dealers around US


Chrysler dealers from around the US seem revved up by the purchase of the US carmaker by Italy’s Fiat SpA.

They were attending the US National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans on Saturday — four days after Fiat announced that it had bought the last big chunk of Chrysler stock to make the US company a wholly owned subsidiary.

“I think it’s well deserved,” said Pamela Burger of Carl Burger Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram World in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa, California. “They picked us up out of bankruptcy when we couldn’t even be bought and have grown us over five years... They helped us grow instead of stripping us of money and assets.”

“The quality gets better and better,” she said.

Fiat has been running Chrysler since 2009 and owned nearly 60 percent of Chrysler’s shares, but lacked full control until Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne won a hard-fought deal with the union-controlled trust fund that owned the remaining 41.5 percent of the stock. With the deal complete, Marchionne can push deeper integration and decide where the joint company will be based and listed, as well as its name.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that the newly combined Fiat-Chrysler automaker will seek a fiscal domicile in Britain and a stock listing on a New York exchange.

Marchionne is set to make the proposal to the board this week, people familiar with the plans told the Journal.

Chrysler and Daimler-Benz AG merged in 1998 to form DaimlerChrysler. Sold in 2007 to Cerberus Capital Management and renamed Chrysler LLC, the company filed in 2009 for bankruptcy reorganization.

Chrysler, of Auburn Hills, Michigan, logged its ninth straight profitable quarter in the third quarter of last year, earning US$464 million and propping up Fiat, which is struggling in a down European market. Without Chrysler, Fiat would have lost US$340 million in that quarter; instead it earned US$260 million.

“In South America, Chrysler is seen as a very premium product” — much more prestigious than Fiat, said Fiat dealer Juan Pablo Meivide of TOP West SA in San Justo, Argentina.

Alabama state Senator Dick Brewbaker, a member of the third generation at Brewbaker Motors in Montgomery, says he is very impressed by the vehicles’ interior design and the company’s marketing.

“At first I was a little cautious” about the merger, he said. “I will say it has far and away exceeded my expectations.”

He said that within five months of the purchase, dealers saw greatly improved vehicles, especially the interiors. The company’s marketing also improved, he said.

“I think it was a distraction for a while for Sergio,” said Don Lee of Lee Auto Malls of Maine, in Westbrook, Maine. “Now that’s out of the way he’ll focus more on business of Chrysler and Fiat.”

“I always gauge the success of these manufacturer meetings by the amount of complaining that goes on during question-and-answer. It was relatively quiet — a good sign,” he added.

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