A recent meeting of The Chrysler Group board of directors addressed the future plans being made by CEO Sergio Marchionne concerning product redesigns in the face of dismal sales numbers. Chrysler had no comment on the meeting, saying that no plans will be discussed until its five-year plan is announced in November.
While the board meeting proceeded, a protest was held in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Union workers in the hundreds gathered for a rally in an effort to rescue a Sebring/Avenger production plant. Chrysler currently plans to close the factory by the end of the year. The UAW members gathered in hopes of reversing that decision.
The union stance is that it is unfair that Chrysler take $10 billion from the U.S. taxpayers while continuing to cut its manufacturing jobs.
President of UAW Local 1700 Bill Parker said, “This is not the restructuring of the auto industry that the American taxpayer was promised.” The concern is that not only will manufacturing jobs be lost, but that the effects of the plant closings will have further effects on parts suppliers and the local business economies.
“That is not what the president of the United States promised the American public in terms of restructuring the auto industry and in recognizing the realities of the need for fuel efficiency, the need for energy independence,” Parker said.
Marchionne has been CEO of Chrysler since Fiat took 20% ownership of the company and full management control after the company emerged from bankruptcy restructuring this past summer. No money changed hands, but Fiat agreed to share fuel efficient small car technology with the ailing auto giant in order to revive sales and bring the company to a more competitive place in the market.
As a result, Chrysler will be able to offer smaller, more eco-friendly vehicles as part of their product lineup. A version of the Fiat 500 will be marketed in the U.S. by late next year, and CEO Marchionne and other executives have been working on plans for the last three months concerning the merging of Chrysler’s future vehicles and Fiat technology.
Marchionne has reportedly been less than impressed with Chrysler’s product development in the last two years. Revamping product lines and offering auto buyers the latest in design and technology is seen as an essential element in customer retention and attracting new buyers.
Since last year, Chrysler’s sales in the U.S. have dropped 39% and the company is being constantly monitored by the U.S. Treasury Department auto task force.