Chrysler's Press urges dealers to focus on sales

'There is no pending bankruptcy,' co-president says

Jim Press urged Chrysler dealers to focus on business as usual.
Jim Press spent a busy day Friday trying to reassure Chrysler dealers to carry on with business as usual despite news reports that a bankruptcy filing may be imminent.

During an interview Friday afternoon, Chrysler's co-president said dealers are still ordering cars, even though May orders may fall short of the company's expectations.

"The pace of orders coming in for May is a little short," Press said. Chrysler hit its April target for wholesale dealer orders, he noted.

In a Friday teleconference, Press told dealers to focus on their business, aim for a strong sales weekend and ignore the news reports.

"Today was a day filled with a lot of fairly blatant headlines forecasting bankruptcy," he said. "But if you read the articles, nothing has changed. It is possible we may file for bankruptcy by the end of the month. It's true. We've always said we've got a number of challenges to put the deal together with Fiat. But it is not a desired outcome. We have to have plans in place to file as a contingency only.

"There is no pending bankruptcy. The best thing we can do is reassure our customers and focus on doing business over the month."

Press said Chrysler is planning for business as usual in May. The company has no plans for the kinds of production shutdowns announced this week by General Motors, Press said. Chrysler also is readying its May advertising campaign.

The company is acting on the assumption that it won't have to file for Chapter 11 reorganization. But if the negotiations fail, it will reassess those plans.

"It's too early to tell now," Press said. "We don't have a lot of information."

Press was referring to an April 30 deadline set by the U.S. Department of Treasury for Chrysler to prove its viability through an alliance with Italian automaker Fiat S.p.A.

To do so, the company must extract financial concessions from its creditors and unions. It hasn't been an easy task, and many Wall Street analysts are predicting gridlock.

Later Friday, Chrysler did reach a tentative accord with the Canadian Auto Workers union.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@autonews.com

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