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Chrysler's Italian Boss Unfazed By Low Market Share

Fri, 10/02/2009 - 5:00am

DETROIT (AP) — The new Italian leader of Chrysler Group LLC says he is not alarmed by the automaker's market share decline and he expects to improve the company's U.S. share from this point forward.

Fiat SpA CEO Sergio Marchionne, speaking to reporters Thursday while on a tour of Chrysler's headquarters with Italy's economic development minister, also said there are no plans to reverse a decision to close an assembly plant in the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights.

Marchionne, who was given control of Chrysler by the U.S. government when the automaker exited bankruptcy protection June 10, said September U.S. sales, which dropped 42 percent from the same month last year, are not an indicator of Chrysler's future performance.

"All the work that has gone on here since we came in on June 10 has been geared at providing the framework to effectively drive volume over the medium to long term," he told reporters. "Our intention is to improve share from this point on, but I don't get alarmed."

Marchionne said Chrysler isn't "bleeding as people think we are," and urged reporters to wait for the company's business and product plan to be released in November.

"The future is a lot better than the market share in September would indicate," he said.

Chrysler ended September with 8.3 percent of the U.S. auto market, down from 9.5 percent at the beginning of the year, according to Autodata Corp.

Marchionne also said there are no plans to change a decision to close the Sterling Heights plant, which makes the slow-selling Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger midsize cars. It is scheduled to close at the end of next year.

People briefed on Fiat's product plan for Chrysler have said that it will stretch a compact car frame and build a new midsize product, perhaps in as soon as 18 months, to replace the Sebring and Avenger.

"I have no plans on my desk that would suggest that the decision is going to be reversed," Marchionne told reporters.

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