In honesty, reassurances from the President won’t lessen the worries of Chrysler’s employees, suppliers, and competitors. Chrysler is going through the process of assessing their assets with a bankruptcy lawyer and there is no telling how things will end at this point in time. Nobody in this industry will sleep better tonight because the President has a few feel-good words to share. Nonetheless, President Obama cannot let such an important bankruptcy occur without acknowledging the telling moment — we’re liveblogging his damage control, but don’t hold your breath for any announcements that could really help the industry, like legislation that narrows the international trade gap… If you are bankrupt or would just like some help with your personal finance then you may be interested in a RESP, which is a Registered Education Savings Plan, which could help you with your financial situation.

11:08 CDT: Obama opens with “Hey guys, I know you haven’t seen enough of me lately… ”

11:10: Obama says that auto manufacturing, an important pillar of our economy, has been weakened by “papering over tough problems and avoiding hard choices.” Obama says that, for years, Chrysler produced cars that were “less popular, less reliable, less fuel-efficient than foreign automakers’.” I’d really like to see facts and figures about MPG to back up this data. In the years that Chrysler’s quality and efficiency may have lagged in some areas, Chrysler had market share that dwarfed others — others that escape a Presidential reprimand for being uncool.

11:12: Again, it is “announced” that Chrysler and Fiat have reached a partnership “that has a strong chance for success” — but no partnership has been publicly announced yet, only a “memorandum of understanding”. A Fiat partnership would save 30,000 Chrysler jobs. Under the agreement, all federal loans will be repaid before Fiat gets a majority stake (ie: before Fiat can start repatriating all of its Chrysler profits to Italy). Obama, who has likely never driven a Fiat and probably can’t tell you what the acronym stands for, says Fiat has demonstrated the ability to build clean, high-tech cars — hasn’t Chrysler? Where are Fiat’s hybrids, PHEVs and EREVs? I like Fiat, but isn’t the idea of Fiat as an omniscient, benevolent savior absurd to anyone else? Still no mention of the B-word.

11:14: Obama cites the “group of investment firms and hedge funds” — he calls them “speculators” — who held out for an “unjustified taxpayer bailout” and made bankruptcy the only path forward. Many people do need to look to Ohio bankruptcy lawyers to help when pushed into these situations. “I don’t stand with them. I stand with Chrysler’s employees, their families, and communities… Chrysler’s management, dealers, suppliers. I stand with the millions of Americans who own and want to buy Chrysler cars.” And finally, the B-word. “And that’s why I’m supporting Chrysler’s plans to use our bankruptcy laws to clear away its remaining obligations, so the company can gets back on its feet.” Funny how the Presidency can’t lessen the impact of a once-proud American institution’s insolvency. “It will not disrupt the lives of the people that work at Chrysler … and it will not affect the ability of the American consumer to buy a Chrysler.” No, not physically… but intellectually, there will be incredible trickledown effects from bankruptcy.

11:17: Chrysler Financial has been determined to be a money pit, that’s probably why they couldn’t get any new investors or commercial loans in florida approved as other struggling businesses can get. “GMAC has agreed to finance new Chrysler sales. We will be providing additional capital to GMAC” for this purpose. So Cerberus-owned GMAC gets a free ticket out of the auto biz, and gets to capitalize on any recovery that may come…

11:20: Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers Ed Montgomery will travel to Michigan next week, “cutting through red tape, ensuring that the full resources of the US Government are getting to the workers and families that need it most.” Can a guy with such a bureaucratic title make miracles happen on short order? I suggest you arrive with a strong plan firmly in hand, Ed, because people in the Mitten are hard-etched and unreceptive to hand-wringing by now.

11:20: Obama calls for unity from the Union Hall to the Boardroom to the Halls of Congress, showing once and for all that high hopes for hugs can’t gloss over the complexities of the auto industry and magically arrive at substance. As the address ends, yet another opportunity to acknowledge the government’s role in this crisis has conveniently passed. There is no definite collaboration between Fiat and Chrysler — nothing says Torino won’t walk — and even if the Punto purveyors ink a deal for pennies on the dollar, the era of Chrysler’s contribution to America’s research and development bottom line has passed.

By the way: a government-backed anything warrants very little faith these days.

Chrysler is hosting a conference call to discuss its future under Fiat and through bankruptcy.

Bob Nardelli starts out by thanking Obama for his advertorial encouragement. Nardelli says that when Obama asked viewers to buy American, “I know he meant Chrysler.” Ego much? “Given the success of his mandate, I’m sure our share will go up in the next few days.” I don’t know whether this level of delusion is humorous or tragic.

Nardelli cites his debt of gratitude to the President and Treasury. Friend, that’s not the only debt you have.

Mike Ramsey asks, “What of Chrysler Financial?” Nardelli: CF is a freestanding company, not part of Chrysler LLC, and has an independent board. Apparently, Chrysler Financial is in consolidation talks with GMAC. Also, “What of consolidation of brands and models?” Jim Press: Chrysler continues to cut out redundant models. Ramsey asks Press, “Are you sticking around?” Press stammers, ‘uhh’s, and says, “I haven’t really talked or thought about anything other than staying focused on… ” blah blah blah, non-answer. Ramsey: What is the new company called? Nardelli, laughing: “NewCo!” I’m sure everyone on ice thinks the lack of track is funny. Not.

Automotive News asks, “When do you plan to communicate with your dealers on consolidation, and do you have a target dealer body reduction?” LaSorda: Chrysler Financial will finance existing dealer floorplanning, GMAC will finance wholesale floorplanning after the agreement is signed and handle retail financing as well. Last month, 45 CJD dealers went out of business. Going forward, Chrysler wants to consolidate brands under one roof; there is no planned date for announcement or target number. The best he’s got: “Noticeable reduction; pleasant as possible.” I guess “we’re gonna hemmorhage and it’s gonna be tough” is an unacceptable PR answer. LaSorda mentions that once GMAC takes over floorplanning, they will evaluate each dealer’s solvency over six months and then decide who gets financed and who doesn’t…

Someone from the Detroit News just asked Nardelli if someone from Fiat will have his job. Ouch. LaSorda is asked if he will stay; Marchionne asked him to stay, but LaSorda has just announced that he will retire and will not stay through the bankruptcy proceedings. “After 32 years, it’s probably time that I get to know my wife and kids again.”

Another journalist: Warren Truck and Warren Stamping employees have been sent home and told they are indefinitely laid off. Is that part of today’s announcement? LaSorda: A supplier decided, based on today’s news, that they will no longer ship components to that plant. LaSorda: “This is not every plant.” This situation “will be back in control through the court process.”

Nardelli muses, recants a conversation with Penske. “It’s like we came in on the last pit stop, tuned the car up, were the fastest car out there, and we ran out of laps.” Analogy made me a little nervous for a moment. Thought this was going to be a meaningful NASCAR-cession announcement. Nope.

Nardelli says, “We are where we are, no regrets.” Yeah, bud. Because you are a noob, you are no car guy, you didn’t spend your formative years believing in the Pentastar. Ask the Mopar faithful and the Chrysler lifers if management has any regrettable decisions. You’ll find more recent answers than you’d think… ask the guys at Warren Truck and the dying suppliers if you have anything to regret.

Why does Motor Trend always ask obnoxious product-centric questions to which “duh” is an acceptable answer? In case anyone was wondering, the Cinquecento may make its way into CJD showrooms someday, somehow, if a Fiat agreement is reached. Motor Trend: please stop wasting conference call time.

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Adam Barrera

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