You want the good news or the bad news first? OK, the good news is that Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told attendees at NADA’s annual convention that Fiat and Chrysler “may” be merged into a single company, possibly headquartered in the US. Which means the federal bailout may not have simply been a transfer of the firm to Italian ownership, news that many taxpayers likely find at least a little bit comforting. Now, about that bad news… while saying that he planned to “work his [rear end] off” to pay back taxpayers, Marchionne let slip a bit of the resentment he clearly feels at government ownership of Chrysler, saying
I am paying shyster rates. We had no choice… I am going to pay the shyster loans.
Jalopnik does a good job of covering the roots and associations of Marchionne’s choice of words (and clearly he could have chosen better), but we’re mostly irked by the victim complex embraced by executives of the bailed-out automakers, especially in Marchionne’s case. The Fiat CEO was given 15 percent in Chrysler for no cash down, and will be able to take control of the automaker for a tiny fraction of its actual value. All this was possible only because the government guided Chrysler through bankruptcy, crammed down its bondholders, demanded union concessions and injected tens of billions into the company… and now Marchionne wants to employ slurs to complain about the fact that some of that money must be paid back?
These comments cloak Marchionne in the gravitas and respectability of someone who believes he should be able to receive unemployment benefits without actually looking for a job. Especially considering that only yesterday Marchionne was slamming GM for turning down DOE loans, saying
I have neither the arrogance nor the cash to show any disdain toward the DOE process. It would be wiser to Chrysler to continue to try to secure that funding.
Given that public support for the bailout is still quite low, Marchionne’s comments could hardly have been more poorly chosen.