Chrysler set to recover from bankruptcy
Chrysler recently announced that it will offer 50 closed dealerships reinstatement, reversing an earlier decision to not reinstate any dealerships. Approximately 400 dealerships applied for franchise reinstatement through arbitration, and Chrysler has decided to send letters of intent to 12.5% of them. As recently as mid-March, the company had showed signs of not reinstating any dealership seeking arbitration.
According to Chrysler, the dealerships selected to be reinstated were chosen because they “are in locations that offer customer service benefits and will have limited adverse impact on the dealers within our current network.” Each of the dealerships will house all four brands currently owned by Chrysler.
Coinciding with the reinstatements, Chrysler also revealed that 36 other closed dealerships have been offered contracts and sales agreements in addition to the 50 offered reinstatement. An undisclosed amount of dealerships that have also shut there doors are currently in settlement talks with the company as well.
With a total of 86 dealerships either reinstated or on the track to be reinstated, about 11 percent of the 789 Chrysler dealerships closed in June of last year could be reopening their doors very soon. This number could easily rise if more of the unnumbered dealerships have settled deals with the company.
No more shortages of the hard-top Wrangler
Chrysler recently announced that it has solved their problem of Jeep Wrangler hard-top shortages. By staging two production increases in early and late April, Michael Manley, CEO of Jeep, says that they’ll be able to meet the growing demands for the vehicle.
Ever since Chrysler’s bankruptcy almost a year ago, many Jeep dealers have been experiencing shortages of the popular Wrangler hard-top. Last month, dealers were told that constraints from suppliers would force shortages of the model for several months. Meridian Automotive Systems, Inc., the original supplier, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August of last year, causing production to severely decrease. Since then, Continental Structural Plastics, Inc. has taken over production.
During the shortage, Chrysler urged dealers to sell the soft-top version of the Wrangler to customers. This was difficult, as the hard-top version typically accounts for 70% of all Wrangler sales. Recently, demand for the hard-top has peaked at 85% of Wrangler sales. While Jeep sales declined 3% from 2008 to 2009, the decline did not break out the sales percentages of hard- and soft-top Wranglers.
In addition to the production increases, Chrysler said that Jeep will offer a greater choice of options for hard-top Wranglers. Of these options, colored hard-tops matching the body paint of the car is the most notable.
The new Fiat 500 from Chrysler
Chrysler recently announced plans to build an electric version of the Fiat 500 in the United States. The minicar is slated to go on sale in the US in 2012. A prototype of the vehicle, called the Fiat 500EV, was on display at the latest Detroit Auto Show. The concept version utilized an electric motor along with a lithium-ion battery pack and electric vehicle-control unit to power it.
Chrysler’s senior vice-president of engineering Scott Kunselman said that a light, small platform like the Fiat 500’s is perfect for electric vehicle technology. Powering a car purely on an electric motor is easier to do in smaller, lighter vehicles.
Chrysler is set to release a gas-powered Fiat 500 in the United States later this year under the Fiat moniker.
In the same announcement, Chrysler revealed that it will also be producing a fleet of hybrid plug-in Dodge Ram pickup trucks. The automaker will receive up to $48 million in order to produce a fleet of 140 vehicles. The plug-in Ram will be powered by a 5.7-liter V-8 engine mated with a two-mode hybrid transmission and a lithium-ion battery pack. On a single charge the truck should be able to travel up to 20 miles on electric power alone.