Having been told by the Secretary of Transportation that the Chrysler Group’s motley assortment of new trim level names, rebadged Lancias, decal-sporting special editions represents “the cutting edge of developing the kind of products that I think people in this country, and also in other countries, are really going to feel very favorable toward,” CEO Sergio Marchionne apparently thought enough had been said about his struggling bailout baby. As CBS reports, Marchionne suddenly canceled a 45-minute scheduled press availability before he had the chance to confirm LaHood’s astonishing opinion.
According to CBS
Last Thursday, Chrysler sent an email to members of the broadcast media, including CBS News, who had requested interviews with CEO Sergio Marchionne. The email, written by electronic media communications manager Ed Garsten, notified the recipients that Marchionne would be made available for “a 45 minute special broadcast availability” at 1 p.m. on Monday.
But minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, the plan had apparently changed.
Senior manager of communications Carrie McElwee stepped in front of the microphone and announced to the more than two dozens journalists already on hand that the event had been canceled. “He was on the floor quite a bit before, and then it took longer and his schedule changed,” Garsten later told CBS News.
The WSJ‘s write up of that on-the-floor conversation starts with the headline “CEO Expects Chrysler to Start Hiring,” but bases it on this heavily-qualified quote
It is more than likely, if we are accurate in our forecast of what the market will be, we are going to increase heads. It will be a gradual build, with some of it being done with temporary hires.
That first “if” is the mother of all ifs. Chrysler’s entire financial plan centers on the Group making $42.5b net revenue and breaking even on an operating profit basis next year. In all recent presentations, Chrysler executives have tied financial results to the health of the overall market, seemingly ignoring the elephant in the room, which can best be represented in visual form thusly:
Has Chrysler hit bottom, or are we looking at a dead cat bounce on a long road downward? Auto Motor und Sport dedicate a few short sentences to Marchionne’s take on that question. “The only thing that reassures me is that we hit a floor in 2009,” Marchionne is quoted as saying. But, “putting his ambitious sale goal in doubt,” as AM&S puts it, Marchionne disclaims “unprofitable volume isn’t the volume I’m looking for.”
Too bad nobody had the chance to ask if he thinks (for example) the Islander Edition Wrangler will halt the once-proud Jeep brand’s 30 percent sales slide that took place over the last year. Or how showing a Lancia dressed as a Chrysler gets anyone excited about anything. Or what will happen if arbitration with 789 culled Chrysler dealers goes bad. Or how (for example) offering $1,500-$4,000 cash on all Chrysler-brand models repairs the brand or creates “quality volume?” Or, or, or…