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Nardelli: Chrysler won't need more capacity cuts-Press sees 'big drop' in March

From Automotive News:

Nardelli: Chrysler won't need more capacity cuts
Press sees 'big drop' in March

Bradford Wernle
Automotive News
March 19, 2008 - 10:57 am ET
UPDATED: 3/19/08 11:17 a.m. EDT

NEW YORK -- CEO Bob Nardelli does not think Chrysler LLC will have to make major capacity adjustments even if industry sales fall below 15 million units this year.

" We pegged the industry at 15.5 million units before the rest of the industry got there," Nardelli said this morning at the International Motor Press Association breakfast opening the New York auto show, where he delivered the keynote speech. " We did not build in a second-half recovery" into the forecast.

Chrysler co-President Jim Press said the economy won't get much worse: " I think we're on the bottom of the bathtub."

Nardelli also said Chrysler is on target to return to profitability, although he declined to say when that might be. Chrysler is now privately owned and does not report its financial figures.

Nardelli said Chrysler ended 2007 with " $1 billion more in cash and liquidity" than the company's recovery plan identified. " We're on plan for the first two months."

Chrysler is introducing the 2009 Dodge Challenger in New York. The Challenger will be offered with three engines. A six-speed manual transmission also will be offered.

Meanwhile, Chrysler expects to post a "big" decline in March U.S. sales compared with a year earlier, reflecting the automaker's decision to pull back from less profitable deals for car rental agencies, Press said.

Press and other Chrysler executives spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the New York auto show. Now controlled by Cerberus Capital Management LP, Chrysler posted a 13 percent drop in U.S. sales in January and February.
Separately, Tom LaSorda, who oversees the automaker's production activities, said he was "optimistic" Chrysler could meet its target for cutting U.S. factory workers through a program of buyouts and early retirement offers.

Chrysler has said it aims to reduce by 8,000 to 10,000 its 44,000 U.S. blue-collar work force represented by the UAW as part of its restructuring efforts.
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