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Chrysler executive expects an ‘absolutely positive’ year

Keywords: Tags  Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, Dodge Dart, corinna petry

CHICAGO — Chrysler Group LLC achieved more than 25 percent of its 2012 vehicle sales target during the first quarter by selling more than 600,000 units, and "indications for the remainder of the year are absolutely positive," said chairman and chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne.

"I have no bad news to tell you," he said during the automaker’s quarterly conference call. The Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company posted net income of $473 million, quadruple that of a year ago, on revenue that jumped 25.2 percent to $16.4 billion.

Marchionne described the market as "incredibly rational. Everybody is fighting competitively (for sales) but nobody is doing anything stupid. As long as no one builds additional capacity in the U.S. without exploring the possibility of fully utilizing industrial infrastructure, we will be fine.

"I see no indication of anyone going crazy here. It would be visible in the pricing. So far, everybody has a very disciplined approach—it’s a good foundation on which to look at the whole of 2012," he said.

Chrysler is launching the Dodge Dart in the second quarter. "We are going to start framing the car Monday (April 30). We look forward to a successful launch of a C-segment sedan, a piece of the market we’ve been absent from for a long time. We’re expecting great volume for the Dart," Marchionne said.

However, preparing a launch like the Dart is no "walk in the park. We had an issue over a particular component crop up overnight. Given that we’re starting framing Monday, it’s an important issue," he said.

Marchionne wouldn’t speculate on how well the Dart will be received. As production is only beginning, he said, he wouldn’t be able to see the potential before the second half. "Until I see customers driving it, I will reserve judgment."

The Dart is being produced at Chrysler’s Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant, where the automaker has invested $700 million on a new body shop, paint shop, stamping line and quality control.

Amid rising vehicle sales and product launches, "everyone is dealing with increased demand on their production systems. We are committing to third shifts at Jefferson (Detroit), Belvidere and Toledo (Ohio). (The last two are) running flat out," Marchionne said. "Most of our plants are being tasked to the max."

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