Despite the “skeptical and patronizing looks” of those who placed a “death sentence on our company,” Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne suggested the automaker has proved it is both a viable and competitive player in the global auto industry.
The executive, who also runs Chrysler’s Italian partner, Fiat SpA, tried to maintain a low-key tone Tuesday as he announced the long-troubled American automaker had officially paid back the $7.5 billion it owed the U.S. and Canadian treasuries – six years earlier than it was required to under the terms of the bailout it received in 2009.
But speaking to an overflow audience of reporters, workers and dignitaries at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, in suburban Detroit, it was obvious that Marchionne wanted the event viewed as a critical transition point for Chrysler.
The Canadian-educated executive heaped plenty of praise on the White House, and particularly President Barack Obama, who decided to offer Chrysler a bailout despite significant opposition within his administration.
“We were encouraged by the fact that someone believed in us,” said Marchionne, adding “it happens rarely in life you’re given a second chance.”