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.

Comments (4)
  1. Milton says:

    Don’t forget all of the American tax payers and all the businesses that supplied Chrysler that went down.

    1. Geno from UAW #1268 says:

      I am one of the fortunate Belv. Chrysler employees that was saved due to President Obama and American tax payers. Everyone here is extremely grateful to be able to make a living and feed our families. It does bother me that so many who don’t work here have such negative feelings for Us. We assemble a product which we as a whole take allot of pride that being said we don’t design, market or manage the books. It is illogical to blame all us blue collar (and some white) for the catastrophe that befell GM and Chrysler. The American public was paid back in full the amount LOANED to us unlike the financial institutions that got free money. It is important that we stick together and lend a hand to everyone through these tough times. Support local stores and buisnesses and buy American assembled products. God Bless.

  2. Menot U says:

    It’s really because the AVERAGE Itailan worker gets 42 days of vacation time…..the US 12 !!!!

  3. Matthew says:

    This is truly wonderful news. However it wasn’t that many years ago that Chrysler CEO Robert Eaton introduced the “wold-beating” Neon. Chrysler was doing so well that it “merged” with Daimler-Benz. Before that the legendary Lee Iacocca “saved” the company.

    What’s really different today? Is there one?

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