Posted by: David Welch on November 4, 2009
Contrary to popular view, Chrysler isn’t flat broke. That was the first thing Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said when kicking off a six-hour presentation that seeks to convince the world that the Italians have a plan to bring Chrysler back from the brink. The company has $5.7 billion in cash and has actually grown its cash hoard by $1.7 billion since exiting from bankruptcy in June, Marchionne said.
And get this. Chrysler made $200 million in profit since emerging from bankruptcy in June. Well, let’s qualify that. The company made $200 million in EBITDA, which is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. That is to say, they made money before counting a lot of things that cost the company money. So Chrysler still lost money since June.
But Marchionne did say that Chrysler broke even in September. One month’s profit is practically meaningless in the car business. Put off some major spending on a future vehicle program for a month and you can make any month look good. Marchionne said Chrysler did it by being very parsimonious. His point is that Chrysler’s financial position is not as hopeless as many outsiders think.
Given the debt reduction and cost cuts made during bankruptcy, Chrysler’s financial position is probably not as dire as everyone thinks. But its sales are. Chrysler sales are off 39% this year. The company said it has a slew of new models coming from its joint engineering projects with controlling partner Fiat, but stopping that drop off in sales will be very difficult. If it gets worse, Marchionne will have to slash deeper for Chrysler to make it.