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Chrysler Sells Controlling Stake


One of those carmakers is on its way to new ownership.

Chrysler's German parent announced that it sold America's third biggest car market to a private equity firm. This is the first major automaker to go private and we're going to talk more about that in a couple of moments. First though, we'll find out what all this means for Chrysler's 80,000 workers.

Dustin Dwyer of Michigan Radio met some workers during the shift change yesterday at a plant outside Detroit.

DUSTIN DWYER: It was a warm and windy day outside Chrysler's stamping plant in Warren, Michigan north of Detroit. As workers filed out across a busy street, they said they still didn't know what to make of yesterday's announcement.

Michael Waller(ph) remembers nine years ago when workers found out that they would be bought by Daimler-Benz of Germany. Yesterday he faced the possibility of a new parent company - Cerberus Capital Management based in New York.

Mr. MICHAEL WALLER (Daimler-Chrysler Plant Worker): You know, I think the Germans just got tired of us and got what they wanted. And somebody else thinks they can - hopefully they can turn around and get us back to profitability and we can all benefit from it.

DWYER: Executives at Chrysler had already announced a turnaround plan that would eliminate 13,000 jobs and close at least one plant by 2009. Cerberus leaders haven't proposed any additional cuts, but that hasn't stopped workers from speculating. Enoch McFarlane(ph) says people don't know what to think.

Mr. ENOCH McFARLANE (Daimler-Chrysler Plant Worker): Well, you know, a lot of people are scared. A lot of people are saying people under five years are getting, probably going to get let loose. So it seems like that maybe they want to make quick buck and sell off parts of the company. So it has quite a few people scared.

DWYER: Even before the announcement with Cerberus, McFarlane planned to leave Chrysler. He signed up for a buyout worth $100,000. Now he wonders if the deal will still be good under Cerberus.

Mr. McFARLANE: I've been hearing that we might be sold. But you know, that's our rumors, and they don't want - you know, they went on to say, yeah, that we're up for sale. We're thinking, okay, well, we're still going to get the package. And like I said, we still don't know. It's like no one comes to us and says, hey, we're going to have a meeting, let's talk about this. We don't know. No one knows anything right now.

DWYER: A spokesman for Chrysler says he expects the automaker's current turnaround effort will go on as planned. He says that would include the buyout and early retirement deals. But those details have yet to be worked out. So workers like Mike Waller just have to wait.

Mr. WALLER: Not really much I can do, you know, much that we can do. Just hope for the best. Only time will tell, you know, what's going to come off it.

DWYER: Later today, Ron Gettelfinger, the head of the United Auto Workers, has a meeting with officials at Cerberus.

For NPR News, I'm Dustin Dwyer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter for a new project at Michigan Radio that will look at improving economic opportunities for low-income children. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.