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AutoLine: Episode 265 – Chrysler’s Turnaround Plan, Opel Workers Protest, NHTSA Criticizes Toyota

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Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne held a marathon press briefing yesterday and made it very clear the company has the cash, the resources and the plan to turn itself around. Opel workers in Germany walked off the job to protest GM’s decision to keep it. NHTSA is criticizing Toyota for statements regarding its massive recall over floor mats. All that and more, plus a look at Sergio Marchionne’s plan to turnaround Chrysler.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .


Here are today’s top headlines. Chrysler says it will break even next year. Opel workers walk off the job. And NHTSA says Toyota has a design defect with its floor mats. Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, November 5, 2009. And now, the news.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne held a marathon eight-hour press briefing yesterday and made it very clear the company has the cash, the resources and the plan to turn itself around. Chrysler says it will break even on an operating basis next year. It will break even on a net basis in 2011. By 2014 the company projects it will earn $8 billion in profit on an EBITDA basis—before taxes, depreciation and amortization. And Marchionne says Chrysler will repay all the TARP money it got from the US government by 2014. We’ll have more on Sergio Marchionne later in the show.

Just when you thought the GM/Opel saga was finally over, more drama flares up. The Detroit News reports that Opel workers in Germany have walked off the job to protest the General’s decision to keep Opel. Employees are worried about losing jobs as GM restructures the company. Its plan for Opel is similar to the one presented by Magna which called for the elimination of almost 11,000 European jobs, or 20 percent of the workforce.

Ok, you’ve got your front, side, side-curtain and knee air bags, but Ford will soon add another to the list – inflatable seatbelts. The Detroit Free Press reports that the company plans to offer “blow-up belts” as an option on the next-generation Explorer. The restraints are made out of a softer, more comfortable material than conventional belts. They inflate less forcefully than airbags and use “cool gas” making them safer for even children. Ford is not the only automaker looking into this technology. Mercedes had a concept vehicle with this a while back. You know, I first reported on inflatable seatbelts about 20 years ago. We’ll have more information on Ford’s inflatable “belt bags” tomorrow.

Porsche announced that the new Boxster Spyder will debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month. The soft top convertible is the third model in the Boxster line-up and comes equipped with a 3.4 liter six-cylinder engine with direct injection, that powers the car from 0-60 MPH in 4.6 seconds. It’s also the lightest model in Porsche’s line-up, thanks to the use of aluminum doors and other lightweight materials. The 2011 Boxster Spyder goes on sale next February in the U.S. with a starting price of $61,000.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is criticizing Toyota for “misleading and inaccurate” statements regarding its massive recall over floor mats. According to the Detroit News, the automaker said that the agency found that sudden acceleration in vehicles was only caused by improperly fitting floor mats. However NHTSA says this misrepresents their findings which say that drivers should remove floor mats as an interim solution and that there is still a flaw due to the design of the accelerator above the foot well.

Coming up next you’ll get a chance to see Sergio Marchionne make his case about how Chrysler is going to survive and thrive.

As we mentioned at the top of the show, Sergio Marchionne held a marathon briefing yesterday for the media, analysts, suppliers and dealers. One of the messages he clearly wanted to get across is that he believes he can turn Chrysler around, just like he did with Fiat.

Marchionne also drove home the point that Chrysler is actually going to get a lot more new product in its showrooms a lot faster than anyone expected.

Marchionne made it quite clear that he believes he has the management team in place to pull off this turn around.

Marchionne believes that cars today have become too much of a commodity. He says Chrysler’s products will be far more expressive and he also takes a shot at the imports.

Before going into Chrysler’s media briefing yesterday I wasn’t sure if the company was really going to be able to survive. Now that I’ve seen their five-year plan I think they have a reasonable chance of making it.

Hey don’t forget to tune in tonight for Autoline After Hours. There has been so much big news in the industry this week, we’ll have a lot to cover. Join me, Peter De Lorenzo, and David Welch tonight live at 7 p.m. Eastern, or 2400 hours GMT.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, vLane, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

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