Monday, May 25, 2009

What should have happened to Chrysler

It looks like Chrysler is likely to emerge from Bankruptcy shortly. That surprises me because I don't think Fiat brings much to the table and, without freeing itself of UAW domination, Chrysler is clearly not a viable company. I guess with enough taxpayer money, anything is possible. Until Chrysler is merged with the other taxpayer financed UAW payoff mechanism (GM), it will continue to rack up losses for the taxpayer.

What should have happened? The parts of Chrysler should be sold off free of UAW contract obligation and dealer obligations. That is what bankruptcy is all about. Factories, trademarks, parts, and real estate should be sold to whoever will pay for them to satisfy Chrysler's true obligations. The public will get a more competitive and innovative set of car companies.

Chrysler should be sold out of bankruptcy in 5 parts:

Jeep: This is where the real value lies. Jeep should sell for 2 to 3 Billion Dollars with Mahindra and Mahindra of India being the most obvious but not the only possible buyers. Kia, Honda, and Nissan could all benefit from owning the Jeep name.

Dodge Trucks: This is much less valuable than Jeep, but is still probably he second most valuable part of Chrysler. The Sprinter van, Dodge Ram Pick up trucks, and SUV's. Maybe 500 Million to 1 Billion.

Voyager/Caravan Minivans: Chrysler's minivan is an up-to-date model that sells well in a marketplace that Ford, Volkswagon, General Motors, and other automakers aren't in in an effective way. Any one of those companies could jump start their minivan line by buying the original at a bargain price. Bargain price would be right around 500 Million. Volkswagon already resells a private label version of the Chrysler Minivan so they would be a great candidate.

Chrysler automobiles: This is the "and the rest" of Chryslers car line. Dodge Challenger (they would have to drop the Dodge part unless this was bought with Dodge trucks), Chrysler 300, PT Cruiser, and all the other models in Chrysler's line-up and the brands in its rich history. Could be valuable to a Chinese or Indian company building a brand line-up. Up to 500 Million but probably less.

Global Electric Motor cars: These are around town electric cars. I don't know if this helps a company with fuel economy averages or not. Worth something in any case.

I think sealed bids without government pressure would have gotten the secured creditors 3 to 4 Billion and taken the warranty obligations off the government's and creditors hands (gaining the relationships with existing owners makes taking on the warranty obligations generally a win for buyers of the brand names). That is more than the 2.6 Billion the creditors got with Obama's blunt warning that the government would punish anyone who tried to break up their deal with Fiat.

The courts didn't think this was clear enough an expropriation that they should block the deal. It's an extreme long shot that the Supreme Court would rule the Federal Government doesn't have the power to take over a business or overrule the bankruptcy court and find that the secured creditors aren't being fairly compensated. They could find that the president doesn't have the power to do it without an act of congress that actually authorizes it, but I think an act of congress would be forthcoming so that would just represent a small delay.

Its a big loss for taxpayers and car buyers that the governement is propping up losers and not letting new companies with new technology and aggressiveness re-assemble the parts of the auto industry. We are losing out on the gain from creative destruction while magnifying the losses.

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