Chrysler CEO: Fuel Economy's Up, Future is Green

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli sent a letter to the automaker’s employees yesterday in which he reflects on the past year, highlighting improved fuel economy, electric vehicle plans, and votes of confidence (aka bailouts) from the U.S. and Canadian governments. There’s no mention of the company’s plans to seek concessions from secured lenders as part of the emergency loan deal — a move that prompted Standard & Poor’s to cut Chrysler’s corporate credit rating yesterday. “Given Chrysler’s weak liquidity,” S&P analysts wrote, the agency considers the offer to exchange secured debt for equity or new debt at a steep discount to be “tantamount to a default.” A few excerpts follow. The Detroit News has posted Nardelli’s full letter here.

Votes of confidence:

We are grateful to the U.S taxpayers and the U.S. Treasury Department that they will provide a loan to Chrysler to help bridge the current financial crisis. And we appreciate that the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario have offered to provide financial assistance as well to protect Canadian manufacturing. This support underscores their confidence in Chrysler’s plan for future viability and their recognition of the importance of the automotive industry to North America.

Fuel economy’s on the rise:

We continue to boost the fuel economy of our vehicles. For the 2009 model year, 73 percent of our products offer improved mileage compared with 2008 models, with six vehicles offering 27 mpg or better highway fuel economy: the Caliber, Patriot, Compass, Sebring, Sebring Convertible and Avenger.

Actually, according to the EPA, the 2008 Sebring Convertible gets only 26 mpg for highway driving, and 18 mpg for city driving:

And in September, we shocked the industry with the unveiling of our ENVI family of all-electric and range-extended electric vehicles, a major step on the path to national energy security and reduced environmental impact. We will put our first electric-drive vehicle into production for North America by 2010 with three additional models by 2013.

Future plans:

Our long-range product plan is robust, realistic and green. The plan features 24 major launches from 2009 through 2012. Many of you had the opportunity last week to attend the future products open house in the Design Dome and saw the all-new versions of key models such as the Chrysler 300, Dodge Durango, Dodge Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee, our electric vehicle prototypes and the sketches of other products like a new fuel-efficient small car. You also had a chance to see the tremendous strides we are making in the quality of our interiors, which will have a major impact on pleasing our customers, as well as the latest generation of our uconnect family of consumer technologies for in-vehicle information, communications and entertainment. Our future plans also include a hybrid Ram truck.

Nardelli concludes by saying the company is so grateful for Americans’ support, it’s spending some of their tax dollars on a thank-you ad in national newspapers:

Throughout the government loan request process, I’ve received many letters, calls and e-mails of support from our extended Chrysler family, our customers and many Americans who support the automotive industry. To show our appreciation, we will be placing an advertisement in several national newspapers today, thanking America for investing in Chrysler.

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