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Chrysler's Future According to Marchionne

Thursday, 28 Feb 2013 | 4:40 PM ET
Chrysler Investing In America
CNBC's Phil LeBeau speaks to Sergio Marchionne, Fiat Chrysler CEO about the company's expansion of transmission production in America, the U.S. economy and whether an IPO is in the works.

Nearly four years after he started running Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne is ready to take the Detroit automaker to the next level. Specifically, the Chrysler and Fiat CEO wants his two companies to truly come together.

"We have gone beyond the dating stage," said Marchionne. "This has gone into some heavy-duty relationships that need to be consummated in some fashion. We need to bring the bacon home now."

Marchionne made his comments to CNBC following a ceremony in Kokomo, Indiana to announce Chrysler is adding 1,250 jobs at three plants in north-central Indiana.

Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO , Chrysler Group LLC.
Getty Images
Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO , Chrysler Group LLC.

Chrysler IPO?

Right now Fiat owns 59 percent of Chrysler and is in the midst of trying to buy another six percent of the Detroit automaker from The UAW Veba Trust. The two sides have been in court arguing over the appropriate valuation of some of those shares. Beyond that, Marchionne and the Veba Trust have different ideas for how Fiat can buy the rest of Chrysler.

The UAW thinks an IPO and the chance to sell shares on the market, potentially at a higher price, is the best approach. Marchionne and Fiat leaders would prefer to settle upon a price with the Veba Trust instead of potentially paying more for Chrysler shares on the open market.

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"I think Fiat will have to make a decision whether it wants Chrysler to IPO or whether it wants to preempt the IPO and effectively pay for it," said Marchionne.

"One way or the other Fiat and or Chrysler will access the capital markets in some fashion to get a deal done. I am still of the view that Fiat and Chrysler have to become one company if it could be done in 2013 I would be the happiest man on this floor."

Borrowing to Buy Chrysler?

With €10 billion euros of cash, Fiat has enough to fund part of the purchase of Chrysler, but clearly the company would also have to issue debt to pay for the Detroit automaker. For an Italian company issuing corporate debt carries risks since their interest rates follow the same yield curve as government bonds.

That worries Marchionne. "If there is a spike in national borrowing costs for Italy it will negatively impact on Fiat. Obviously something we find incredibly unpleasant," he said.

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—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau; Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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