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March 31, 2010

US: Marchionne firm on 1.1m Chrysler sales, break even

Chrysler Group chief executive Sergio Marchionne has reiterated the automaker "intends to break even" on an operating basis this year and will hit its target of selling 1.1m new vehicles in the US.

Chrysler Group chief executive Sergio Marchionne has reiterated the automaker “intends to break even” on an operating basis this year and will hit its target of selling 1.1m new vehicles in the US.

“We are confident that we can meet our ambitious but achievable goals,” Marchionne said during a keynote address at the Automotive Forum 2010 in New York. “The amount of work that had been done to bring down the break even point – that number ended up being lower than most people thought.”

He added that “to the extent that we are producing cash…I feel a lot more comfortable today than I did 12 months ago.” Marchionne said that as of Monday, Chrysler had stockpiled “just north” of $5 billion in cash, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The report noted that Chrysler’s sales fell 3.2% in the first two months of the year and that Marchionne’s plan was based on a forecast that US sales would rise 18% this year. Analysts expect another Chrysler decline when March sales are reported on Thursday (1 April, 2010).

Marchionne, following his speech, insisted Chrysler would sell 1.1m new cars and trucks this year and would rely on new products rather than incentives. He added he wanted to “pull ahead” new introductions but doubted it could be done.

Chrysler is expectd to launch a new Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler 300, a freshened Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger and Dodge Charger this year.

Marchionne also said the automaker would invest $500m in Chrysler’s US dealership network over the next five years.

Chrysler last year moved to shut 789 showrooms but legislators mandated that Chrysler enter into an arbitration process with each dealer it wants to close. About 418 dealers are seeking arbitration although the automaker is seeking to reduce that number through “alternative measures”.

Marchionne is expected to announce a five-year plan for Chrysler and Fiat on 21 April.

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