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Long road for Chrysler, smallest of US Big Three

autos Updated: Jun 06, 2009 10:57 IST
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Chrysler, the smallest of the Big Three automakers, has a storied past but has faced a rocky road in the past three decades.

The Detroit automaker, which has declared bankruptcy, has pleaded for extra government financing as it sealed a partnership with Italy’s Fiat.

The company was founded in 1919 by Walter Chrysler who left General Motors and took over the former Maxwell Motor Corp, changing its name.

At the end of 2008, Chrysler had 54,000 employees worldwide. It sold 1.45 million cars last year in the United States, its main market.

It is planning to cut some 3,000 more jobs this year after 32,000 cuts in 2007 and 2008.
The company has undergone several restructurings since it became part of the Big Three in 1929 with the brands Chrysler, Dodge, Imperial, DeSoto and Plymouth.

In 1978, it sold its European operations to Peugeot-Citroen of France. But as it neared bankruptcy, it won a government bailout with federal loan guarantees of 1.5 billion dollars agreed on by president Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Chrysler repaid the government in 1983, seven years ahead of schedule, after selling its defense division and revamping its lineup.

The manufacturer introduced the minivan in 1984, a seven-passenger vehicle built on a car platform, a segment it still dominates.

In 1985, Chrysler and Japan’s Mitsubishi announced a joint venture to produce small cars for the US market.

Chrysler acquired American Motors in 1987, getting the Jeep nameplate.

In 1998, Chrysler announced a merger with Germany’s Daimler-Benz, with the US brands becoming a unit of the newly formed DaimlerChrysler.

Chrysler claims to have sales in 125 countries, but its international operations were sharply reduced after its 2007 breakup, in which the Chrysler Group was spun off and acquired by private equity investors headed by Cerberus Capital.

On Friday, a US appeals court cleared the way for Chrysler to exit bankruptcy under an alliance with Italy’s Fiat, dismissing a challenge from Indiana’s state pension funds.