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CNBC EXCLUSIVE: CNBC TRANSCRIPT: CNBC'S MARIA BARTIROMO SPEAKS WITH JIM PRESS, CHRYSLER VICE CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, TODAY ON CNBC'S "CLOSING BELL WITH MARIA BARTIROMO"

WHEN: TODAY, FRIDAY, MAY 15TH

WHERE: CNBC'S "CLOSING BELL WITH MARIA BARTIROMO"

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Jim Press, Chrysler Vice Chairman & President, on CNBC's "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo" today.

All references must be sourced to CNBC's "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo."

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BARTIROMO: JOINING ME NOW IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW TO TALK ABOUT THE MOVE BY CHRYSLER IS VICE CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, JIM PRESS. MR. PRESS, NICE TO HAVE YOU ON THE PROGRAM. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

PRESS: I APPRECIATE THE OPPORTUNITY.

BARTIROMO: THIS IS A VERY EMOTIONAL AND TOUGH TIME, CERTAINLY, CLOSING DEALERSHIPS AND PLANTS AND JOBS. THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU INTENDED TO DO AND THESE ARE THE REALITIES WE ALL FACE NOW. CAN YOU GIVE US A SENSE OF THE CRITERIA YOU'RE USING IN TERMS OF CUTTING DEALERSHIPS?

PRESS: WELL, YOU KNOW, OVERALL BANKRUPTCY IS NOT A FUN SPORT. IT'S DIFFICULT AND IT REALLY REQUIRES A LOT OF SACRIFICE SO WE CAN EMERGE FROM THIS IN A SENSE OF A COMPANY THAT'S GOING TO BE ABLE TO GO FORWARD IN A VERY STRONG WAY. FROM OUR STAND POINT, THE DEALER ORGANIZATION HAS TO REFLECT THAT AS WELL OTHERS ARE MAKING A LOT OF SACRIFICIES AND WE BETTER DO THE SAME. WE HAVE EXCESS CAPACITY. WE'RE TAKING A LOOK AT THE DEALER BODY STRATEGY THAT SHOULD EXIST IN THE FUTURE, BASED ON WHAT OUR BUSINESS PLAN IS. THE NUMBER OF DEALERS, THE SIZE, THE LOCATIONS, AND THE QUALITY. THERE'S NO QUESTION THAT WE'VE GOT EXCESS DEALER CAPACITY. THERE'S NO QUESTION WE'VE GOT TOO MANY DEALERS AND AS A RESULT RIGHT NOW FOR ALL THE DOMESTICS, THE DEALERS THAT ARE THERE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH BUSINESS TO MAKE ENOUGH MONEY TO HAVE THE KIND OF ORGANIZATION AND FACILITY TO REALLY COMPETE WITH SOME OF THE COMPETITORS DOING THAT RIGHT NOW.

BARTIROMO: RIGHT. SO MANY PEOPLE ARE WONDERING, IS IT ENOUGH? WHAT IS ENOUGH? WHAT'S THE RIGHT NUMBER? LET ME ASK YOU THAT. THE COST CUTS ARE ROUGHLY 25%. IS THAT ENOUGH RIGHT NOW? HOW DO YOU GET TO THAT NUMBER?

PRESS: IT'S THE RIGHT AMOUNT NOW. WE WANTED TO HAVE THE LOWEST NUMBER THAT WOULD STILL GIVE US THE OUTGOING DEALER BODY THAT WAS IDEAL FOR THE MARKETPLACE. YOU KNOW, THE THINGS THAT WE'RE TAKING A LOOK AT FROM THE STANDPOINT OF IDEAL LOCATIONS, WE'RE BRINGING ALL THREE BRANDS UNDER ONE ROOF WHICH GIVES OUR DEALERS A LOT MORE EFFICIENCY AND ALLOWS US TO GIVE THEM BETTER PRODUCTS TARGETED. WE DON'T HAVE TO HAVE DIFFERENT CARS WITH DIFFERENT BRANDS. WE CAN GIVE THEM ONE GOOD CAR FOR ALL THREE BRANDS. IT ALSO ALLOWS US, THE WAY WE'VE DONE THIS, 25% OF THE DEALER COUNT IS REALLY ONLY ABOUT 14% OF THE SALES VOLUME. SO WE'VE IDENTIFIED THE DEALERS THAT WERE NOT REALLY AS PRODUCTIVE FROM THE STANDPOINT OF VOLUME. ABOUT HALF OF THEM ARE DUAL DEALERS, FOR EXAMPLE. OUR BUSINESS WAS ONLY ABOUT 12% OF THAT VOLUME. LOOKED AT THE OPPORTUNITIES TO THIN THE DEALERS OUT AND EXISTING DEALERS WOULD HAVE A MUCH BIGGER PIECE OF THE PIE AND MUCH STRONGER MARKETPLACE.

BARTIROMO: LET ME TALK ABOUT THAT. YOU'RE MENTIONING SOME OF THE BRANDS. THAT ALSO TAKES ME INTO A WHOLE NEW AREA OF QUESTIONS. HOW DO YOU PROTECT SOME OF THESE DEALERS? FOR EXAMPLE, YOU HAVE A DEALER ON THE CUT LIST THAT ONLY SELLS JEEPS.THEN YOU HAVE ANOTHER DEALER ON THE CUT LIST THAT DOWN THE STREET THAT SELLS CHRYSLER AND DODGE. SO LOGICALLY THE PLAN IS FOR THEM TO SELL JEEPS, TOO, BUT HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE THEY DON'T GET RIPPED OFF IN DOING SO?

PRESS: THESE ARE GUT WRENCHING, TERRIBLE PROCESSES. WE'VE HAD A VERY RIGOROUS PROCESS TO GO THROUGH. IT'S BEEN VETTED THROUGHOUT WHERE WE HAVE THE SAME CRITERIA APPLIED. IN THAT PARTICULAR CASE, WE WON'T HAVE STAND ALONE JEEP DEALERS AFTER THIS. WE CAN'T PRODUCE ENOUGH DIFFERENT PRODUCTS TO KEEP A STANDALONE JEEP DEALER PROFITABLE. THEY'RE GOING TO GO AWAY. IT IS THE FACT THEY SHOULD BE COMBINED WITH THE DODGE AND AS WELL AS THE CHRYSLER AND THE JEEP. NOW, THEY'VE KNOWN THIS FOR FOUROR FIVE YEARS, BEEN MOVING THIS WAY. WE'VE BEEN TRYING TO HAVE THIS CONSOLIDATION OCCUR ON A MORE NORMAL BASIS. THE PROBLEM IS IT HASN'T. OUR DEALER BODY IS SUBSTANTIALLY BLOATED. THE AVERAGE DEALER LOST OVER $3,000 FOR THE YEAR LAST YEAR. WHEN YOU TAKE A LOOK AT OTHER MAKES WHERE THE AVERAGE DEALER MAKES $500,000 OR $600,000, THEY CAN'T COMPETE. WE'RE LOSING THE STRENGTH OF THEDEALERS AND IT'S NECESSARY TO MAKE THE TOUGH CALLS SO WE CAN GET THE DEALERS MORE EFFICIENT AND FOCUS WITH THE RIGHT BRANDS.

BARTIROMO: TELL US ABOUT THE PRACTICAL DAY-TO-DAY, TODAY, THAT YOU'RE WITNESSING IN BANKRUPTCY. WHEN YOU FIRST ANNOUNCED YOU WOULD BE FILING A LOT OF TALK ABOUT SO-CALLED SURGICAL BANKRUPTCY THAT YOU'RE GOING TO BE IN AND OUT IN A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME.WHAT IS THAT PROCESS LOOKING LIKE RIGHT NOW? A MONTH'S TIME OR HOW LONG DO YOU EXPECT THIS TO TAKE?

PRESS: WELL, YOU KNOW, WE HAD PLANNED A NINE-WEEK PERIOD FOR OUR RESTRUCTURING. A LOT OF THIS REFLECTS THE FACT THAT BEFOREHAND, WE REALLY TRIED TO AVOID THE BANKRUPTCY AND WERE REALLY WORKING ON A SETTLEMENT OUTSIDE OF BANKRUPTCY.SO WE HAD A LOT OF THIS PREDONE. THE GOVERNMENT, THE TASK FORCE FROM THE AUTO TASK FORCE, HAVE BEEN REALLY PHENOMENAL TO WORK WITH. FIAT HAS. DAIMLER AND SERBEROUS HAVE DONE A GREAT JOB. EVERYBODY LINED UP TO HELP US GET CONSENSUS AND COMMITMENTS UP FRONT SO WE COULD AVOID BANKRUPTCY. SO ABOUT 98% OF THAT WERE DONE. UNFORTUNATELY, WE HAD SOME DIFFICULTY AT THE LAST MINUTE WITH A COUPLE LENDERS. WE HAD TO GO INTO BANKRUPTCY. A LOT OF THE PRE-PACKAGE THAT OCCURRED STILL APPLIED.EVERYONE RECOGNIZES HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR US TO MINIMIZE THE TIME IN BANKRUPTCY TO MAKE SURE CUSTOMERS COME BACK, GET MANUFACTURING GOING, GET PROFITABLE AND GET OUR NEW COMPANY LAUNCHED. WE'RE ALL WORKING QUICKLY I THINK WE'RE GOING TO BEAT THE NINE-WEEK TIME PERIOD. IT'S AMAZING HOW WELL EVERYBODY'S WORKING TOGETHER.

BARTIROMO: NINE WEEKS IN BANKRUPTCY.THAT WOULD BE A FIRST EVER, RIGHT? THAT'S PRETTY EXTRAORDINARY.

PRESS: I THINK IT IS. BUT I THINK WE'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO HOPEFULLY BEAT THAT.EVERYONE IS REALLY WORKING HARD TO DO IT.THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS IF YOU HAVE GOT THAT DESIRE AND ALL THESE PEOPLE SUPPORTING US, IT'SPOSSIBLE.

BARTIROMO: YEAH. BUT MR. PRESS, DOESN'T THE WORK REALLY BEGIN, THEN? YOU'VE GOT, LET'S FACE IT, IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN, SOME OF THE WORST NUMBERS IN TERMS OF UNITS SOLD, VEHICLES -- VEHICLES SOLD. YOU'VE ALSO GOT NEW SUPPLY COMING IN MARKET IN A HURRY. THE JAPANESE, WHO ARE MAKING SMALL, EFFICIENT CARS.YOU'VE GOT THE CHINESE WANTING IN ON THE AMERICAN MARKET.YOU'VE GOT THE KOREANS CERTAINLY DOING AN EFFECTIVE JOB ALSO ON YOUR COAT TAILS. ARE YOU GOING TO BE ABLE TO PRODUCE THE CARS THAT YOU REALLY NEED ON THE LOTS? I MEAN, SMALLER, FUEL EFFICIENT CARS IN ENOUGH TIME TO GO HEAD TO HEAD WITH SOME OF THESE VERY, VERY COMPETITIVE EFFECTIVE PLAYERS?

PRESS: YOU'RE RIGHT ON, MARIA. THAT'S ABSOLUTELY THE ISSUE. THAT'S WHY THE SOLUTION WE'VE GOT, THE ALLIANCE AND PARTNERSHIP WITH FIAT, REALLY MARRIES THE TWO BEST PRODUCT LINES POSSIBLE. BECAUSE THEY ARE BY FAR THE BEST MANUFACTURER IN EUROPE OF SMALL FUEL EFFICIENT TECHNOLOGY ENGINES AND PLATFORMS. WE CAN PRODUCE A LOT OF THAT EQUIPMENT HERE IN THE IDLE FACTORIES WE HAVE HERE PUTTING AMERICANS TO WORK.FILL THE DEALER BODY WITH THE RIGHT PRODUCTS AND SMALLER, MORE FUEL EFFICIENT CAR AND CROSSOVER SEGMENTS AND AT THE SAME TIME, BLEND THAT WITH THE TRUCKS, SUVs, VANS WE'RE REALLY GOOD AT AND WE'VE REALLY GOT A FULL FRANCHISE. WHEN YOU PUT OURSELVES WITH FIATTOGETHER, WE BECOME I THINK THE FIFTH OR SIXTH LARGEST MANUFACTURER IN THE WORLD GLOBALLY. A LOT OF POWER FROM THAT IN TERMS OF PURCHASING AND SYNERGY AND WE'VE ALSO GOT BECAUSE OF FIAT BECAUSE OF SERGIO MARCHIONNE HAS DONE A TREMENDOUS JOB OF TURNING THEM AROUND WILL BE ABLE TO APPLY A LOT OF THAT KNOWLEDGE TOOUR TURNAROUND, PUT THE COMPANIES TOGETHER I THINK WE HAVE A TREMENDOUS FUTURE AND WE ARE NOT JUST VIABLE, BUT CAN BECOME A FORMIDABLE GLOBAL COMPETITOR.

BARTIROMO: HAVE YOU SPENT A LOT OF TIME WITH SERGIO, THE CEO OF FIAT?

PRESS: NOT A LOT. I'VE HAD A CHANCE TO SPEND QUITE A BIT OF TIME WITH HIM.

BARTIROMO: TELL ME ABOUT THE UNIONS. 55% OWNERS OF THE COMPANY. WHAT KIND OF INTERACTION OR SORT OF MANAGEMENT, YOU KNOW, INTER PLAY HAS GONE ON THERE?

PRESS: WELL, THAT'S PART OF THE WAY THE EQUITY CAME OUT FROM THE INVESTMENT OF THE VIBA VERSUS THE DEBT CONVERTED AND AS WELL AS THE LOANS FROM THE GOVERNMENT. IT'S REALLY A -- IT'S A TRUST FUND THAT HAS THE 55%. IT'S NOT THE UNION. THE TRUST FUND IS REALLY THE FUND THAT'S GOING TO BE TAKING CARE OF THE RETIREES OF THE UNION WORKERS AS THEY GET OLDER. PART OF THAT TRUST FUND WAS CONVERTED INTO EQUITY. THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS IT'S NOT A -- THEY DON'T HAVE A VOTING MAJORITY, THEY'LL ACTUALLY BE VOTING WITH THE MAJORITY OF THE -- NINE DIRECTORS ON THE NEW BOARD. ONE WILL REPRESENT THE UNION. THREE FROM FIAT.THE GOVERNMENT WILL HAVE THE BALANCE. THEY'LL BE APPOINTED. I THINK IT'S REALLY GOOD TO HAVE THE COLLABORATION AND THE INVOLVEMENT AND COMMUNICATION WITH THE UNION. STILL, THE BOARD WILL BE IN CONTROL AND THAT HAS -- THAT HAS NOT CONTROLLED AT ALL BASED ON WHAT THE EQUITY SPLIT IS.

BARTIROMO: YOU KNOW, IT REALLY IS A NEW WORLD, AND SO MANY RULES CHANGING AND CHANGE FOR SO MANY CORPORATIONS. LET ME GET YOUR TAKE ON THE GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP IN BUSINESS, IN PARTICULAR WHEN IT COMES TO LET'S SAY, ONE OF YOUR MAIN COMPETITORS, THAT WOULD BE GENERAL MOTORS. THERE'S A LOT OF EXPECTATION THE GOVERNMENT WILL END UP OWNING OR CERTAINLY CONTROLLING 55% OR 50% -- OWN 50% OF GM. DOES THAT PUT YOU AT A DISADVANTAGE THAT THE GOVERNMENT OWNS 50% OF ONE OF YOUR COMPETITORS?

PRESS: WELL, I THINK -- I DON'T UNDERSTAND FULLY WHAT THAT WOULD MEAN OPERATIONALLY. OUR EXPERIENCE SO FAR WITH THE TASK FORCE HAS BEEN REALLY TREMENDOUS. THEY'VE BEEN VERY HELPFUL IN TERMS OF NEGOTIATIONS AND FORMING THE ALLIANCES AND DOING ALL THE STUFF BEHIND THE SCENES IN TERMS OF ESTABLISHING THE BANKRUPTCIES, THE RULES, GETTING US THROUGH THIS. THEY'VE BEEN VERY GOOD FROM A POINT OF VIEW OF INVESTMENT BECAUSE THEY ARE LENDING US THE MONEY.IN SOME WAYS THEY'RE THE EQUITY FIRM. OPERATIONALLY, THEY'VE REALLY MADE A CLEAR LINE OF STAYING WHERE THEY KNOW BEST AND LEAVINGTHE BUSINESS TO US. ADVANTAGE OF THAT, THEY'RE GOING TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR INDUSTRY. WE MAY HAVE MORE DIALOGUE. MAY ALLOW US TO HAVE MORE INTER PLAY AND A BETTER UNDERSTANDING WHEN DECISIONS ARE MADE THROUGHOUT THE GOVERNMENT.I THINK THERE'S SOME BENEFITS THERE AS WELL.

BARTIROMO: MR. PRESS, WE WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK.JIM PRESS, CHRYSLER VICE CHAIRMAN AND PRESIDENT.


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