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Free and Clear of Uncle Sam, Chrysler Ready to Run

Friday, 3 Jun 2011 | 9:49 AM ET
Chrysler grille
AP
Chrysler grille

After almost two years with the federal government owning a sizable chunk of Chrysler, the once bankrupt automaker is now free and clear of Uncle Sam. Thursday night Chrysler parent Fiat paid $500 million for the U.S. Treasury Department's 6% stake in Chrysler.

Now comes the fun part.

Chrysler is ready to run.

It won't be a sprint, but more of a steady jog that will pick up speed in the months to come. For CEO Sergio Marchionne, no longer having Uncle Sam as a shareholder frees up the company to do more in the capital markets. When I talked with him this morning, he made it clear Chrysler's access to the capital markets means the company will be able to do more on a quicker time frame, and do it more efficiently.

While Marchionne won't give a timetable for a Chrysler IPO, it's definitely on the way. Also on the way in the next 18 months are more fuel efficient cars. Chrysler still skews more towards trucks and SUV's than its competitors and with gas prices expected to remain high, that is a head wind Marchionne needs to minimize as much as possible.

Resurgence of American Auto Industry
Insight on the U.S. selling its remaining Chrysler stake to Fiat, with Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler Group CEO and CNBC's Phil LeBeau.

This is just the start.

Sure Chrysler's enjoying it's highest market share (11%) since Fiat took over, but the Company has a long ways to go. It's way behind competitors when it comes to hybrid, electric, and extended range cars. Marchionne will close that gap over the next couple of years. And we'll finally start seeing more models that are "all-new" and designed for the new reality in America: fuel efficiency is a top priority.

But most of all, look for Marchionne to give Chrysler the freedom to do what it does best: design and build models with that turn heads and make people want to buy them. Gone are the days under Cerberus where outsiders managed the company based mainly on the balance sheet.

Chrysler is ready to run.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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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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