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Chrysler’s Marchionne Says ‘I Think The World Of American Workers’ In Rare Interview

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Sergio Marchionne  (credit: Fabrizio Costantini/Getty Images) FILE

Sergio Marchionne (credit: Fabrizio Costantini/Getty Images) FILE

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DETROIT (CBS Detroit) It turns out when Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sent a glowing email to U.S. workers earlier this year thanking them for their efforts to save the company, he was just getting warmed up.

Marchionne sat down for a rare interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” in a show to air at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 25, where he outlines the deck that was stacked against the company and tells host Steve Kroft any other CEOs in the car business wouldn’t “have touched this with a ten-foot pole.”

He says he took the deal — a government stake in the company — and made it work. And he gives credit where credit is due.

“I think the world of American workers,” he tells Kroft. “What happened here at Chrysler would have been impossible without the commitment that they’ve shown, absolutely impossible.”

But it didn’t happen overnight. Marchionne recalls the dire scene at Chrysler when he started in 2009 and saw “fear in people’s faces.”

Chrysler was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, bleeding money and losing market share.

One of his crucial first steps was to cut bureaucracy, and use a $6 billion loan from the U.S. Treasury to refurbish factories and improve quality. He upgraded 16 of Chrysler’s models in just 18 months. The native Italian then began to combine the efficient technology of Fiat factories with retooled Chrysler plants.

The result? The Dodge Dart that costs under $16,000 and gets 40 miles per gallon — and made waves at this winter’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. From design to full assembly, to start next month, took just three years – an unheard of time frame for a Detroit automaker.

And it’s more jobs for the Belvidere, Ill. plant making the Dart and other Chrysler plants and suppliers.

“All these things are long shots…If it was that easy, then everybody would do it,” he tells Kroft… later adding: “We will have brought in over 4,000 blue collars since we came out of bankruptcy.”

Where’s the fear? It’s gone, Marchionne says.

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