Chrysler on Track for 2008 Goals: CEO


Chrysler is on target to meet the goals set by its private equity owner Cerberus Capital Management, despite a weakening U.S. economy, the company's top executive said on Thursday.

"Through the first quarter we are still on plan relative to the pro forma and the targets we established for 2008, in spite of some of the economic winds that are hitting us," Chief Executive Bob Nardelli told reporters on the sidelines of a banquet in Detroit.

He added the No.3 U.S. automaker has tried to anticipate some of the economic headwinds ahead of time and the "team is responding very well so far."

Nardelli also said Chrysler is not in talks with Fiat A German newspaper reported earlier this week that the two car makers were negotiating a possible cooperation agreement to make Alfa Romeo cars at Chrysler's U.S. facilities.

Nardelli said U.S. light vehicle sales in 2008 are running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 15.5 million to 15.6 million, which was in line with the company's expectations.

Chrysler lost $1.6 billion last year and has been moving quickly to restructure its operations under the control of Cerberus, which bought an 80 percent stake last summer.

On Monday, Chrysler and Nissan Motor unveiled a production alliance that gives the U.S. automaker the small car it lacks and allows the Japanese company to stay in the competitive full-size U.S. pickup truck market.

Under the deal, Nissan will build a small car for Chrysler using the North American automaker's design in 2010, and Chrysler will build a new full-sized pickup truck for the Japanese automaker using Nissan's plans in 2011, the companies said.

"What I really am pleased with is the quid pro quo, the ability to purchase and sell and try to balance manufacturing capacity engineering technology between our two companies," Nardelli said.

"We have a void in the lower end, the compact end," he added.

"Our ability to meet the emerging market demand as quickly as we can would suggest we should look at partnerships, alliances ... and that's what we did."