Friday, June 12, 2009

Auto Task Force Saved Chrysler-Now Fiat Takes Control

Fiat takes the wheel at troubled Chrysler
The Associated Press

DETROIT — Italy’s Fiat is the new owner of most of Chrysler’s assets, closing a deal Wednesday that saves the troubled U.S. automaker from liquidation and places a new company in the hands of Fiat’s CEO.

The deal clears the way for a new, leaner Chrysler Group LLC to emerge from bankruptcy protection minus billions in debt, 789 underperforming dealerships and burdensome labour costs that nearly sank the storied automaker.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne immediately was named CEO of the new company, which said in a statement that it would soon reopen Chrysler factories in the United States and Canada that were idled during the bankruptcy process, costing the automaker US$100 million per day.

The new company will focus on smaller vehicles, areas in which Chrysler was weak.

"Work is already under way on developing new environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient, high-quality vehicles that we intend to become Chrysler’s hallmark going forward," the new company said in a statement.

The Italian automaker won’t put any money into the deal but will give Chrysler billions of dollars worth of small car and engine technology.

"We intend to build on Chrysler’s culture of innovation and Fiat’s complementary technology and expertise to expand Chrysler’s product portfolio both in North America and overseas," Marchionne said in a statement.

The Chrysler restructuring involved billions of dollars in financial aid from the U.S., Canadian and Ontario governments as well as labour, pension and other cost concessions from the United Auto Workers and Canadian Auto Workers unions.

In Ottawa, Canadian Industry Minister Tony Clement welcomed the sale and emergence of Chrysler from bankruptcy restructuring "in a timely and efficient manner."

"The government of Canada is confident that we will see a competitive Chrysler Canada Inc. that will produce and sell Canadian-made cars and will continue to play an important role in the company’s North American operations," Clement said in a release.

"A restructured Chrysler is good news for the Canadian auto parts supply chain and for Canadian consumers. The company can now focus on producing top quality vehicles that consumers want.

"Moving forward, the government of Canada will continue to work toward strengthening our country’s auto industry, while exercising rigorous oversight over the use of taxpayer money."

The sale to Fiat SpA marks a victory for the Obama administration, which shepherded Chrysler into bankruptcy protection April 30 with the hope that the company would emerge in a matter of months with a new partner.

Marchionne immediately made management changes, including the appointment of vice-chairman and president Jim Press as deputy CEO and adviser to help with the management transition.

Press, formerly top U.S. executive for Toyota Motor Corp., joined Chrysler shortly after it was taken over in 2007 by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP.

In a statement, Marchionne said the organization will be designed to give leaders broad control and increase the speed of decision making.

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli bid employees farewell in an email obtained by The Associated Press, while vice-chairman Tom LaSorda already has retired.

Marchionne, in an email to Chrysler employees Wednesday, expressed confidence that Fiat will be able to turn Chrysler around.

He wrote that he stepped into a similar situation five years ago at Fiat, which at the time was perceived as a failing, bureaucratic automaker that made low-quality cars.

Yet most of the people capable of remaking Fiat were there all the time, he wrote.

"We have remade Fiat into a profitable company that produces some of the most popular, reliable and environmentally friendly cars in the world," he wrote.

"We created a far more efficient company while investing heavily in our technologies and platforms. And, importantly, we created a culture where everyone is expected to lead. We can and will accomplish the same results here."

On Tuesday, Chrysler won its battle to erase its secured debt after the Supreme Court declined to rule on objections to the sale to Fiat from a trio of Indiana pension and construction funds.

The Indiana funds, which hold less than one per cent of Chrysler’s US$6.9 billion in secured debt, claimed the sale unfairly favours Chrysler’s unsecured stakeholders such as the union ahead of secured debtholders like themselves.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg decided Monday to delay the sale while studying the appeals.

But on Tuesday, the court turned down the opponents’ last-ditch bid by declining a hearing on the appeals.

Also on Tuesday, Judge Arthur Gonzales approved Chrysler’s motion to terminate 789 of its dealer franchises, or about 25 per cent of its dealer base.

Many of those dealers closed their doors for good on Tuesday, though some will continue to sell used cars or other brands.

Chrysler has maintained that the closures are a necessary part of its plan to cut costs.

Press told a Senate committee that the poor performance of many of the dealers slated to lose franchises costs the company $1.5 billion in lost sales each year, along with $150 million in advertising and marketing costs and $33 million in administrative costs.

The dealers had argued that they cover their own costs and little would be gained by terminating their franchises.

Chrysler lawyers said the automaker would extend until Monday its program to help the affected dealers send any unsold vehicles to stores that will remain open.

Chrysler’s swift passage through about five weeks of bankruptcy proceedings was helped by the involvement of the Obama administration’s auto task force, which provided billions in financing and helped negotiate a deal with the company’s stakeholders.

Under the agreement brokered in the days leading up to Chrysler’s Chapter 11 filing, Fiat will receive up to a 35 per cent stake in the automaker in exchange for sharing the technology Chrysler needs to create smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The United Auto Workers union will get a 55 per cent stake that will be used to fund its retiree health care obligations, while the U.S. and Canadian governments will receive a combined 10 per cent stake.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Chrysler sale to Fiat appealed To The Supreme Court

Indiana pension funds group asks Supreme Court to block deal

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington -- Lawyers for a group of Indiana pension funds have filed a long-shot emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to block a deal that would allow Chrysler LLC's emergence from bankruptcy, which could come as early as today.

The appeal came a day after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York approved the sale of Chrysler's "good" assets from bankruptcy to form a new company, Chrysler Group LLC. That firm will be majority owned by a United Auto Workers' health care trust fund. Fiat SpA, which will own 20 percent, will be able to acquire another 15 percent of Chrysler by meeting three benchmarks and will not have to put up any money for its stake. Fiat's CEO Sergio Marchionne will be CEO of Chrysler as well.

In a 39-page appeal filed before midnight Saturday, lawyers for the pension funds wrote: "The negative economic consequences of permitting an unlawful sale to proceed may well over time dramatically outweigh Chrysler's short-term harm. The public is watching and needs to see that, particularly when the system is under stress, the rule of law will be honored and an independent judiciary will properly scrutinize the actions of the massively powerful executive branch."

The petition was referred to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who handles emergency appeals for the 2nd Circuit. She can rule on the matter herself or refer it to the entire Supreme Court. Five of the nine justices would need to vote to hear the appeal and extend a stay blocking Chrysler's sale. By late Sunday evening, the court had not yet ruled.

The Indiana funds hold $100 million of Chrysler's $6.9 billion in secured debt. The funds cover about 100,000 workers and retirees in Indiana.

The U.S. Appeals Court on Friday upheld a May 31 bankruptcy court ruling clearing the way for the sale of most of Chrysler's assets to a group including Fiat and the UAW's health care trust fund. The UAW fund will hold a 55 percent stake, while the U.S. and Canadian governments will hold 10 percent. Fiat has the right to withdraw from the deal if Chrysler hasn't exited bankruptcy by June 15.

The appeals court gave creditors until 4 p.m. today to convince the Supreme Court to hear the case. If not, Chrysler could close on its sale soon afterward.

Much of the Indiana pension funds' arguments against the sale rely on internal e-mails between Chrysler and members of the Obama auto task force, which showed the overarching role of the government in pushing Chrysler into bankruptcy and directing the carmaker's actions ahead of the filing.

Legal experts said the creditors have a high hurdle to vault, since the High Court accepts just a fraction of the cases it receives -- and even fewer emergency cases for review.

But the case would represent the first time the court could rule on the legality of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Wall Street bailout fund that Congress approved last fall. The creditors have challenged the use of the funds for automakers.

The Treasury Department agreed to pay off secured creditors of Chrysler with $2 billion in cash for $6.9 billion in debt -- or about 29 cents on the dollar.

The Indiana funds purchased the debt at an average price of 43 cents on the dollar -- meaning they would lose roughly $13 million on their $42 million investment.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dealers Fight Chrysler Franchise Cuts in Court

NEW YORK, June 4 -- Eldon Palmer was preparing for a grand opening of his upgraded Chrysler dealership -- a $3.2 million project he pursued at the automaker's urging -- when the letter came.

In formal language that seemed to belie their 52-year business relationship, Chrysler informed Palmer that his Indiana dealership, along with another he runs, would be among the 789 dropped as the automaker seeks to emerge from bankruptcy as a new leaner, healthier company.

"We were ready to roll," said Palmer, recounting the millions he has spent over the past two years expanding his Chrysler brands and putting them under one roof in a new facility. He had done so, Palmer added, at the request of Chrysler, which was trying to establish a more efficient dealership network.

One after another, Chrysler dealers slated for closure took the witness stand Thursday in a federal bankruptcy courthouse in Lower Manhattan. Some openly wept.

Chrysler, which plans to emerge from bankruptcy as a new company led by Italian automaker Fiat, is seeking court approval to terminate agreements with roughly a quarter of its dealerships. Thursday's hearing is to be followed by oral arguments Tuesday, after which U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur J. Gonzalez will rule.

Chrysler executives have said that whittling down a bloated dealer network was necessary to be more competitive with foreign manufacturers. The executives said the company used business criteria such as sales productivity and customer service satisfaction to determine which dealers to cut. Chrysler also wants to bring its three product lines -- Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep -- under one dealership roof.

During cross-examination by a Chrysler attorney, Palmer acknowledged that his dealership met a mere 37 percent of its sales target for 2008. "It was embarrassing," Palmer said, in part blaming the poor showing on the condition of the building he purchased, which he has since renovated. "It is a beautiful facility now.

Larry Crain, a dealer in Little Rock, told a similar story, saying he invested in expanding his product offering at the encouragement of Chrysler. And like many others, Robert Melvin, a Nevada dealer, testified that he bought more cars from the company in recent months at the request of executives as Chrysler, faced with plunging sales, tottered on the brink of bankruptcy with insufficient cash flow.

He received a rejection letter last month. To his dismay, Melvin added, he received a shipment of more cars from Chrysler last week.

Despite the dealers' pleas, bankruptcy experts said the dealers have an uphill legal battle. In bankruptcy proceedings, companies have more leverage to ignore state franchise laws that protect dealers. And even if the dealers succeed in preserving their dealership agreements, the nature of the Chrysler case complicates the dealers' battle.

Chrysler is seeking to sell most of its assets to a new company led by Fiat, but the dealer contracts are with the "old" Chrysler that is being liquidated.

"It's a long shot," said Scott Van Meter, managing director of LECG, a consulting firm.

Furthermore, in an opinion approving the sale this week, Judge Gonzalez noted that the underlying argument of many opposing the transaction is the desire to have the government protect every stakeholder from economic loss -- not just those that the government perceives as being essential to the survival of a successful new Chrysler.

"For example, any dealership rejection that is approved will cause hardship to the particular dealership involved but may well be necessary if New Chrysler is to survive," Gonzalez wrote.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chrysler-Fiat Will become A Global Powerhouse

J. Travis-Gm Chrysler News

As Fiat SpA CEO Sergio Marchionne is in the process of wrapping up the Fiat Chrysler deal, he is also working on purchasing GM Operations overseas, Saab, Opel(Saturn) and building a global network quickly.

If Fiat is going after GM-Opel operations, it may target some of GM's domestic brands like Saturn and Pontiac.Because the Opel vehicles and Saturn vehicles are on the same platform....?

The new Chrysler-Fiat line up of vehicle brands could be quit impressive:
Alfa Romeo,Fiat,Ferrari,Maserati,Jeep,Chrysler,Dodge,Saab,Opel(Saturn),Joint ventures with Kia,Mitsubishi,TaTa and Nissan.

By time the smoke clears Chrysler-Fiat will be larger than GM and only second in the World to Toyota! Which they could easily surpass Toyota if the auto markets pick up around the world.

I would guess Sergio believes in go big or go home.....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Chrysler expected to sell assets to Fiat

NEW YORK – Chrysler LLC is expected to file a motion Saturday to sell substantially all of its assets to Italian automaker Fiat Group SpA, but the ailing automaker must still deal with creditors who refused to come to a deal to erase the company's debt.

Attorneys for Chrysler say eight plants will not be affected by the sale, including five that the automaker revealed it will shutter by the end of next year.

While Chrysler faced its first hearing Friday in Manhattan bankruptcy court, court documents showed the Big Three automaker planned to close plants in Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin that employ about 4,800 people. Chrysler said they will be offered jobs at other plants.

The company also announced President and Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda is retiring effective immediately.

Judge Arthur Gonzalez approved a series of motions at Friday's hearing, launching a chain of events designed to ensure Chrysler's bankruptcy process is the quick and "surgical" one the company and the U.S. government have promised.

But what could prove to be the case's biggest challenge still lies ahead. Chrysler must eventually deal with creditors who defied government pressure to wipe out the automaker's debt and might have helped the company avoid a bankruptcy filing in the first place.

Another hearing was scheduled for Monday, where Chrysler attorneys will ask Gonzalez to let the company start using $4.5 billion in loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments to keep operating under bankruptcy protection.

Chrysler, the nation's third-largest car manufacturer, filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday. The company plans to emerge in as little as 30 days as a leaner, more nimble company, with Fiat potentially becoming the majority owner.

In return, the federal government agreed to give Chrysler up to $8 billion in additional financing, on top of the $4 billion the company already has received.

Chrysler attorney Corinne Ball said that lawyers on Monday would ask to set a date for the first hearing on the sale of its assets to the "new Chrysler." In bankruptcy, assets are sold in a two-part process during which the court asks for competing bids. None are expected in Chrysler's case, since documents show the company already tried to form alliances with dozens of companies, including Nissan-Renault, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen and even rival General Motors Corp.

Heidi Sorvino, bankruptcy partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell LLP, said a sale could be completed in 30 to 60 days.

"I think the sale will happen quickly," she said. "The actual proceeding is going to take a long time."

Until the deal with Fiat closes, the automaker plans to idle all of its plants in the U.S. Chrysler's Canadian assembly plants also halted production Friday because of parts shortages stemming from the U.S. shutdown.

In court documents, Chrysler said it won't keep its Sterling Heights, Mich., plant that makes Chrysler Sebrings and Dodge Avengers, and the Conner Avenue plant in Detroit that makes Dodge Vipers. The St. Louis North plant that makes Dodge Ram pickups would also close.

Chrysler's Twinsburg, Ohio, parts stamping plant and Kenosha, Wis., engine plant will also be shuttered.

Two other plants that will be left out of the Fiat sale are the St. Louis South plant and an assembly plant in Newark, Del., that were idled last year. Another facility, Chrysler's Detroit Axle plant, is already scheduled to be replaced by a new factory near Port Huron, Mich.

The "new Chrysler" would lease the eight plants, then shutter them by December 2010.

"While some facilities may close, substantially all Chrysler employees will be offered employment with the new company," Chrysler spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez said. "Employees currently located at a facility identified for disposition will be offered a position at one of the facilities sold to the new company."

Gonzalez approved Chrysler's motion to allow the automaker to pay $48.8 million in employee and contract worker pre-bankruptcy wages, benefits and businesses expenses. The motion also references an estimated $86 million in employee vacation benefits that it may not ultimately have to pay.

The judge also approved Chrysler's motions that will let it continue to honor its warranties and continue its current banking practices.

It's uncertain when Gonzalez will face objections from the creditors that hold $6.9 billion of the automaker's debt.

Four banks holding 70 percent of the debt agreed to a deal that would give the lenders 29 cents on the dollar. But a collection of hedge funds refused to budge, saying the deal was unfair because they deserve to recover more than other creditors like the United Auto Workers.

President Barack Obama on Thursday chastised the funds for seeking an "unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout" after Chrysler and his auto task force cleared the company's other hurdles, including the Fiat deal and a cost-cutting pact that the UAW ratified this week.

Chrysler's bankruptcy filing is the latest step in a drastic reordering of the American auto industry, which has been crushed by higher fuel prices, the recession and customer tastes that are moving away from the gas-guzzling SUVs that were once big money makers.

The government already has sunk about $25 billion in aid into Chrysler and GM.

GM faces its own day of reckoning on June 1, a date the administration has set for it to come up with its own restructuring plan. GM has announced thousands of job cuts, plans to idle factories for weeks this summer and has even offered the federal government a majority stake in the company as it races to meet the deadline.

Like at Chrysler, debt may be the stumbling block. GM has asked its unsecured bondholders to exchange $27 billion of debt for a 10 percent stake in the automaker. The creditors balked, saying that would leave them with just pennies on the dollar and that they deserve a majority stake if they give up their claims.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Chrysler is in court today for bankruptcy hearing

DETROIT – Chrysler's first hearing in a New York courtroom Friday morning may offer the first clue as to whether a quick, "surgical" bankruptcy is possible. The nation's third-largest automaker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday with an ambitious plan to emerge in as little as 30 days as a leaner, more nimble company.

After months on government life support, Chrysler is pinning its future on a top-to-bottom reorganization and plans to build cleaner cars through an alliance with Italian automaker Fiat. In return, the federal government agreed to give Chrysler up to $8 billion in additional aid and to back its warranties.

On Friday morning, bankruptcy court Judge Arthur Gonzalez is scheduled to hear the case's first motions, which typically will allow the company to continue paying workers and basic utility costs as it restructures.

Eventually, Gonzalez will have to sort out the key issue that made bankruptcy necessary: the creditors that hold $6.9 billion of the Chrysler's debt.

Four of the largest banks holding 70 percent of the debt agreed this week to a deal that would give them $2 billion. But a collection of hedge funds refused to budge, saying the deal was unfair and would only return a small fraction of their holdings.

President Barack Obama on Thursday chastised the funds for seeking an "unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout" after Chrysler and his auto task force cleared the company's other hurdles. Along with the Fiat deal, Chrysler adopted a cost-cutting pact with the UAW this week.

"They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices and they would have to make none," Obama said. "I don't stand with those who held out when everybody else is making sacrifices."

One lender, OppenheimerFunds Inc., said it rejected the government offer because it "unfairly asked our fund shareholders to make financial sacrifices greater than the sacrifices being made by unsecured creditors."

The White House said Chrysler could come out of bankruptcy in 30 to 60 days. Under normal circumstances, it would be difficult to complete such a large bankruptcy so quickly.

But John Pottow, a University of Michigan professor who specializes in bankruptcy, said the government's level of involvement is much greater than in a typical corporate bankruptcy.

"If you have the president of the United States who wants something to happen, I think anything's possible in bankruptcy protection," he said.

In the meantime, Chrysler said it will close all of its plants starting Monday and they will remain closed until the company comes out of bankruptcy. At least three Detroit-area factories sent workers home Thursday after suppliers stopped shipping parts over fears they would not be paid.

"A lot of us are scared," said Steve Grabowski, 33, who has worked at a Warren, Mich., parts stamping plant for seven years and was sent home Thursday. "We knew something like this was going to happen, but we didn't think it would be so soon."

Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli announced he would step down when the bankruptcy is complete and take a post as an adviser with Cerberus Capital Management LP, which will give up its 80 percent ownership of Chrysler under the automaker's plan. Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda, who once ran the company when it was owned by the German automaker Daimler, said he would retire.

Chrysler's bankruptcy filing is the latest step in a drastic reordering of the American auto industry, which has been crushed by higher fuel prices, the recession and customer tastes that are moving away from the gas-guzzling SUVs that were once big money makers.

The administration has sunk about $25 billion in aid into Chrysler and rival General Motors Corp.

GM faces its own day of reckoning on June 1, a date the administration has set for it to come up with its own restructuring plan. GM has announced thousands of job cuts, plans to idle factories for weeks this summer and has even offered the federal government a majority stake in the company as it races to meet the deadline.

Like at Chrysler, debt may be the stumbling block. GM has asked its unsecured bondholders to exchange $27 billion of debt for a 10 percent stake in the automaker. The creditors balked, saying that would leave them with just pennies on the dollar and that they deserve a majority stake if they give up their claims.

When Chrysler emerges from bankruptcy, the United Auto Workers union will own 55 percent of the automaker and the U.S. government will own 8 percent. The Canadian and Ontario governments, which are also contributing financing, would share a 2 percent stake.

Under the deal, Chrysler would gain access to Fiat's expertise in small, fuel-efficient vehicles. The U.S. automaker eventually wants to build cars that could get up to 40 mpg, far more economical than its current fleet focused on minivans, Jeep SUVs and the Dodge Ram pickup.

In exchange, Fiat would initially get 20 percent of the company, but its share could rise to 35 percent if certain benchmarks are met, and Fiat said Thursday it could get an additional 16 percent by 2016 if Chrysler's U.S. government loans are fully repaid. Fiat would also gain access to the North American market through Chrysler factories and dealerships.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said he planned to spend time meeting Chrysler's employees and touring its plants over the next few weeks.

He said Fiat was preparing for Chrysler to "re-emerge quickly as a reliable and competitive automaker." Fiat also plans to reintroduce brands like Alfa Romeo in North American markets.

The Fiat deal and bankruptcy cap a disastrous time for Chrysler.

Chrysler lost $8 billion last year and its sales through March were down 46 percent compared with the year-earlier period, leading some auto industry analysts to question whether Chrysler can survive even in bankruptcy.

But company executives told reporters Thursday that Chrysler vehicles with Fiat's fuel-efficient technology should reach showrooms in 18 months.

Vice Chairman Jim Press said Chrysler has cut expenses to operate profitably at a lower sales volume, and he said it would be able to take advantage of Fiat's distribution network to sell more vehicles globally.

Chrysler's LaSorda said in court papers that the automaker started to think about potential alliances as early as fall 2006, when Chrysler was still owned by DaimlerChrysler AG.

In the spring of 2007, LaSorda began negotiations with Nissan-Renault that went through several iterations, and Chrysler also started talks with GM in June 2008. The two companies even studied how much could be saved through a combination, but by November the worsening U.S. economy forced GM to focus on its own liquidity problems.

LaSorda named a number of other carmakers that Chrysler approached, including Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG, India's Tata Motors, the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, Russia's GAZ, Mitsubishi and Honda Motor Co., as well as a number of Chinese automakers. He said it had also approached some suppliers and parts manufacturers.

Despite the turmoil with Chrysler and GM's looming deadline, Obama urged consumers to keep buying cars.

"If you are considering buying a car, I hope it will be an American car," he said.

Stephen Manning reported from Washington. Associated Press writers David N. Goodman in Warren, Mich., Kimberly S. Johnson in Detroit and Vinnee Tong in New York contributed to this report.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Auto Task Force-Obama To Announce-Chrysler to file for bankruptcy

Chrysler to file for bankruptcy

WASHINGTON – Chrysler will file for bankruptcy after talks with a small group of creditors crumbled just a day before a government deadline for the automaker to come up with a restructuring plan, two administration officials said Thursday.

The Obama administration had long hoped to stave off bankruptcy for Chrysler LLC, but it became clear that a holdout group wouldn't budge on proposals to reduce Chrysler's $6.9 billion in secured debt, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the filing plans are not public. Clearing those debts was a needed step for Chrysler restructure by the Thursday night deadline.

Bankruptcy doesn't mean the nation's third largest automaker will shut down. And the privately-held Chrysler is expected to sign a partnership agreement with the Italian company Fiat as early as Thursday as part of its restructuring plan. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing would allow a judge to decide how much the company's creditors would get.

President Barack Obama is expected to discuss the nation's auto sector at noon Eastern.

The Treasury Department's auto task force has been racing in the past week to clear the major hurdles that prevented Chrysler from coming up with a viable plan to survive the economic crisis ravaging nation's automakers.

Along with the Fiat deal, the United Auto Workers ratified a cost-cutting pact Wednesday night. Treasury reached a deal earlier this week with four banks that hold the majority of Chrsyler's debt in return for $2 billion in cash.

But the administration said about 40 hedge funds that hold roughly 30 percent of that debt also needed to sign on for the deal to go through. Those creditors said the proposal was unfair and were holding out for a better deal.

"While the administration was willing to give the holdout creditors a final opportunity to do the right thing, the agreement of all other key stakeholders ensured that no hedge fund could have a veto over Chrysler's future success," said one of the administration officials.

A third person briefed on Wednesday night's events said the Treasury Department and the four banks tried to persuade the hedge funds to take a sweetened deal of $2.25 billion in cash. But in the end, this person said most thought they could recover more if Chrysler went into bankruptcy and some of its assets were sold to satisfy creditors. This person asked not to be identified because details of the negotiations have not been made public.

When it files for bankruptcy, Chrysler would continue operating and Fiat would still sign on as a partner on Thursday, the people said. The government already has promised to back Chrysler's warranties in an effort to allay customers' fears that the automaker wouldn't be around to honor them.

President Barack Obama's auto task force in March rejected Chrysler's restructuring plan and gave it 30 days to make another effort, including a tie-up with Fiat. The company has borrowed $4 billion from the federal government and needs billions more to keep operating. President Obama said Wednesday night while the lender talks were still ongoing that he was "very hopeful" that deals can be worked out to keep Chrysler LLC a viable automaker, and more hopeful than he was a month ago that the company will stay in business.

The UAW agreement, which would take effect May 4, meets Treasury requirements for continued loans to Chrysler Corp., and includes commitments from Fiat to manufacture a new small car in one of Chrysler's U.S. facilities and to share key technology with Chrysler.

Meanwhile, the Fiat partnership means Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli could be out of a job. In an April e-mail to employees, he said that if the deal is completed, Chrysler would be run by a new board appointed by the government and Fiat. The new board, Nardelli wrote, would pick a CEO "with Fiat's concurrence."

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of the Italian automaker, told reporters earlier this month that he could run Chrysler. Obama said Wednesday that Fiat's management "has actually done a good job transforming their industry."

Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press Writers Ben Feller in Washington, Colleen Barry in Milan, Italy, Kimberly S. Johnson in Detroit and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report.