Chrysler's message with its latest quarterly report is that things are turning around, and that the company isn't the Larry King of automakers: This time the marriage is going to work.
The company said net revenues increased to $9.7 billion in the first quarter this year, representing a 4% increase versus the prior quarter. Chrysler says it has a profit of $143 million and positive cash flow of $1.5 billion, giving the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based automaker, a unit of Fiat, $7.4 billion in cash as of month's end, March.
Chrysler reported that its share of the U.S. auto market improved to 9.1% from 8.1% in the fourth quarter last year, and that increases in showroom traffic in the first quarter presage an even better second quarter, when the company rolls out the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Redesigned versions of the Chrysler 300 sedan, Sebring replacement, Dodge Charger, and Fiat 500 will keep interest in the brand strong later this year, per the company, which said by year's end, 16 all-new or refreshed products will have rolled into showrooms.
The company said it is also looking for improved sales in the second quarter from the just-launched Ram Heavy Duty truck, and from the assessment that consumer confidence in Chrysler, which emerged from bankruptcy last year, is on the upswing.
This month Chrysler has focused marketing efforts on the Ram brand. For example, the division just launched a corporate good will program with the Zac Brown Band called "Letters for Lyrics." The program, which aims to deliver one million letters to U.S. soldiers, gives people who write letters to soldiers the band's "Breaking Southern Ground" CD.
The effort includes documentary footage from the Grammy-winning band's USO Tour. The 30-second "Letters for Lyrics" teaser spot ran during the Academy of Country Music Awards last Sunday. The RamTrucks.com Web site is also running documentary footage of the band's USO tour and offering free downloads of the band's latest hit single.
The company at this year's Detroit auto show unveiled an all-electric vehicle based on Fiat's 500 sub-compact, a car that the company said evinces the mutual benefits of the Chrysler/Fiat marriage, as the powertrain came from Chrysler and the car from Fiat. Ironically, Chrysler late last year killed its ENVI program, an in-house think tank for developing such vehicles. The company launched the program with four concept electric cars, one a Dodge-branded sports car.
The company reported that worldwide it sold 334,000 vehicles in the first quarter, versus 318,000 in the last quarter last year. In addition to the U.S., global improvement in sales was driven by a two-percentage point increase in sales in Canada.