U.S. News

Chrysler Sales Hurt by Talk of Sale, Zetsche Tells CNBC


DaimlerChrysler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said last month's announcement that all options are on the table for Chrysler has hurt the U.S. car maker's sales, CNBC's Phil LeBeau reported.

"Yes, we have seen an impact," Zetsche told LeBeau in a 30-minute interview at the Geneva Motor Show. "That's quite natural. You put questions in the minds of people about a company, they are going to think about that. It's inevitable. Our job is to re-instill confidence in Chrysler."

LeBeau said this confirms speculation that Chrysler's February sales included a high percentage of fleet sales to rental car companies, which have low profit margins, rather than high-profit-margin sales through dealers.

Deiter Speaks

DaimlerChrysler's stock rose Tuesday on speculation that the U.S. unit will be sold. Buyout experts from two private equity firms are meeting this week with Chrysler Group executives about possibly making a bid to buy the struggling U.S. unit, a company official said Tuesday.

The official, who did not want to be identified because the talks are confidential, told the  Associated Press that Cerberus Capital Management representatives visited the company's Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters Monday to review the automaker's finances, while Blackstone Group officials are to arrive later in the week.

Although Zetsche wouldn't comment on possible alternatives for Chrysler, he did say that the German-American automaker and General Motorshave started talks on joint-development plans for future products.

GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner wouldn't comment on Chrysler, saying: "I will leave that to Zetsche."

Other car manufacturers, however, continued to rule themselves out of bidding for the Detroit-based business.

PSA Peugeot Citroen Chief Executive Christian Streiff said at the Geneva show that PSA was focused on improving quality and profitability and therefore "did not have time" to look at Chrysler.

Germany's Volkswagen, Italy's Fiat, France's Renault, Japan's Nissan Motor and South Korea's Hyundai Motor, have all said they are not interested.

BMW Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer joined the club by declaring in Geneva that the world's biggest premium carmaker had no interest in Chrysler.