DETROIT -- When Chrysler Group, just months after a federal bailout spared it from liquidation, unveiled plans to radically grow sales five years ago, it had plenty of doubters.
"A lot of people thought we were on some serious hallucinogenic drugs," said Reid Bigland, the head of U.S. sales operations.
Even though the company hit most of its targets, the new five-year plan laid out last week by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles left many analysts and investors wondering whether the executive team was tripping again.
Fiat shares fell so sharply in Italy after the plan, which involves capital investments totaling more than $65 billion, was announced that trading had to be halted briefly the next day. The skepticism prompted Chairman John Elkann and CEO Sergio Marchionne to each buy more than 130,000 shares in a show of confidence.
Analysts generally reacted favorably to the direction of the plan but labeled the financial and sales projections too optimistic.
"Conceptually, the things that they want to do and the risks that they want to take all make sense to me," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive. "But when you put the numbers with it, that's where I have trouble. It's a lot to try to bite off and rework in a short period. I just think this is too ambitious."