The Detroit News: Former auto czar says Chrysler, GM far ahead of expectations

October 31st, 2011

The Detroit News
October 31, 2011
By, David Shepardson

Washington —The Obama administration’s former auto czar says General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC are far ahead of what he expected when the government restructured them in 2009.

Steve Rattner served as the administration’s top auto official for six months in 2009. A paperback version of his 2010 book, “Overhaul: An Insider’s Account of the Obama Administration’s Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry,” was released earlier this month with a new epilogue.

“It’s a story with a happy ending,” Rattner said in a recent interview over lunch, noting he sat down with GM and Chrysler’s new CEOs this summer as he updated his account. “The progress that both companies have made since then is really quite remarkable.”

He especially praised the turnaround engineered at Chrysler by CEO Sergio Marchionne, who also runs Fiat SpA.

Last week, Chrysler posted a quarterly profit of $212 million — compared with a loss of $84 million in the third quarter last year — as its revenue jumped 19 percent to $13.1 billion.

“Chrysler is amazing. I would have never in a million years bet that Sergio could do what he’s done,” Rattner said, praising the freshening of Chrysler’s product line and holding the line on cash flow and bottom line. “They had a rough start, because we didn’t leave them with a lot.”Marchionne told Rattner that Chrysler was focused on allocating scarce capital. “Everything is vetted, flicked, scrubbed. There’s continuous analysis of the alternatives and the cheapest way to get an answer,” Marchionne said, according to the new epilogue.