Chrysler's profits drive ahead

Sales are up about 40 percent over last quarter. Chrysler's CEO may have something to do with it, say analysts.

Tess Vigeland: A couple of months ago during the Super Bowl, Chrysler made a big splash with an ad about it being halftime in America. Youk now, the one with Clint Eastwood doing Clint Eastwood.

Well, apparently halftime is over at Chrysler. Today the automaker reported its best quarterly earnings in more than a decade. Sales were up almost 40 percent over the previous quarter.

But car sales in general are strong right now, so it's not clear what's driving Chrysler ahead. Sally Herships turns on the headlights.


Sally Herships: It’s an automotive miracle. I’m talking about Chrysler’s really strong sales.

Jeremy Anwyl: Just a few years ago, most people would have written them off.

Chrysler? Unsaveable. Jeremy Anwyl is vice chairman of Edmunds.com. He says the auto industry typically does well when an economy recovers. Ford and GM are also reporting  record profits. But Chrysler was the worst off when the fed stepped in. Now doing it’s much better than the rest.

The mystery remains. Normally when car companies want to boost sales, they sell more to rental companies. Not Chrysler.

Anwyl: They’ve actually reduced sales to the rental companies as well. So the mystery really deepens.

Anwyl says the man responsible for the magic is Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Anwyl: This is going to sound kind of warm and fuzzy, but he’s really gotten them to act more as a team.

He says the CEO is giving workers shared responsibility so they can’t undermine each other. Then there are the warm and fuzzy car commercials.

Clint Eastwood in Chrysler ad: People are out of work and they’re hurting and they’re all wondering what they’re going to do to make a comeback, and we’re all scared because this isn’t a game. The people of Detroit know a little something about this.

Larry Hrebiniak teaches strategy at Wharton.

Larry Hrebiniak: The poor people in Detroit are getting some respect. The poor people who have weathered this storm, the 99 percent are coming back. And we’re going to sell cars to this 99 percent.


Cars imported from Detroit.

I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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