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Chrysler's Big Push

Bob Nardelli
CNBC.com
Bob Nardelli

Two weeks before the deadline for President Obama's Auto Task Force to decide whether or not to lend Chrysler, GM and suppliers billions more in Federal aid, Chrysler CEO is very clear: he needs a decision.

In his first TV interview since meeting with the task force last week, Nardelli told me his company has to plan for its future.

The Chrysler CEO said, "Our customers want to know that Chrysler will be here." And if the Treasury Department approves lending Chrysler another $5 Billion (on top of $4 Billion issued in January) Chryslers future will include a strategic alliance with Italian auto maker Fiat. The partnership, valued by Chrysler at $8-$10 Billion, would center around the Italian auto company sharing it's expertise in small efficient cars with Chrysler.

The issue is whether the President's Auto Team will make a call on Chrysler loan by March 31st. Team leader Steven Rattner has said the task force is working towards a decision by the end of the month, but there are many issues to sort through and we shouldn't expect a huge announcement that answers all questions at once. In other words, fixing the auto industry is a work in progress.

Bankruptcy is still a possibility for Chrysler, though Nardelli wants to avoid that outcome and Rattner says the preference is restructuring auto makers outside of chapter 11. Chrysler does not want to slip below $2.5 Billion in cash, or it risks sliding into a messy liquidation.

While Nardelli won't say when it will hit that level, it's clear he needs to know if his company has a renewed lifeline from Washington or if he should plan on bankruptcy court.

If you want to hear Nardelli's perspective on where Chrysler is at, and what it hopes to accomplish, check out the extended interview here.

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