AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson says Chrysler has staged a near-miraculous recovery from its 2009 bankruptcy but still faces challenges.
Jackson, who visited Chrysler last week to see the automaker's lineup of new and refreshed vehicles for 2011, said he was impressed by what CEO Sergio Marchionne and his team had done to update Chrysler's existing lineup.
"What he did in 16 months is remarkable," Jackson said in an interview last week. "I think Chrysler is going to make it."
The key, Jackson said, was Marchionne's quick decision to invest money in Chrysler's existing lineup while waiting for new, Fiat-based products to arrive in two years. Those "bridge models" should be enough to ensure Chrysler's survival, he said.
"The decision to bridge was a decision he had to make in the first 30 days" after Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in June 2009, Jackson said.
He added that if the economy had not been teetering last year, the U.S. government would not have bailed out Chrysler.
"I think they had a one-in-a-thousand chance to make it," Jackson said. "I mean everything was wrong."
As for Marchionne, the AutoNation boss said: "The guy knows the business inside out ... is absolutely driven, refuses to fail, attracts talent, motivates talent, inspires talent. So even though he's got to pull an absolutely inside straight -- if anybody can do it, he can do it."