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Although defending proposed alliance, top exec says automaker is also exploring 'other alternatives.'

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau


LINTHICUM HEIGHTS, Md . -- Chrysler LLC Vice Chairman and President Jim Press said the automaker is in talks with other possible partners if the U.S. Treasury Department rejects a tie-up with Fiat SpA, and defended the proposed alliance saying it would help preserve U.S. jobs.

"If it doesn't work out with Fiat, we still have had other conversations with other potential partners and alliances and those obviously can continue, so we have other alternatives," Press told reporters Tuesday, saying some of those talks have not been made public. "It's a little bit like dating: nobody knows who we're dating. We don't need the paparazzi to follow us around and put pressure on the dates."

Chrysler already has an alliance with Volkswagen AG to produce a minivan for VW and with Nissan Motor Co. to build a pickup for the Japanese automaker in exchange for Nissan building a small car for Chrysler.

Chrysler plans to sell a 35 percent stake to Fiat in a non-cash deal that needs Treasury Department approval under the terms of Chrysler's $4 billion government loan. Fiat could later purchase an additional 20 percent.

"It will make the government a lot more confident that the repayment is going to occur on schedule," Press said of a tie-up with Fiat.

Fiat is swapping assets for equity, he said. "They're giving us billions and billions and billions of dollars worth of hardware," and Chrysler gets access to small car and fuel efficient platforms.

Press said Chrysler needs another $3 billion by March 31, in line with its original $7 billion aid request in December.

"Even without Fiat, we have a good viability plan to get the balance of the $7 billion we requested," Press said.

Press said Chrysler needs the money to operate past March, although it had some cushion if it did not receive the funds by then.

Chrysler sales chief Steven Landry said Chrysler has been reviewing what vehicles from Fiat would make sense to sell in the United States.

"By allowing us to use the capacity of North American plants to build those (Fiat) vehicles and export them, they're preserving American jobs -- a lot of American jobs," Press said.
 
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