News Briefs: March 26, 2012

Here's what we have our eye on today:

  • Correspondent Steve Kroft of CBS' "60 Minutes" interviewed Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who recounted arriving in early 2009 to 54,000 employees fearful of liquidation. The report aired Sunday night. Marchionne told CBS "there wasn't a CEO in the world from the car side that would have touched this with a 10-foot pole." He called Steve Rattner, who headed the federal government's auto task force that ultimately oversaw $6 billion in U.S. Treasury loans to GM and Chrysler, a "brutally tough" negotiator. His biggest fear? That Chrysler will bungle a redesign, which the automaker could ill-afford a year ago. Today, Marchionne says Chrysler could "take the pain" of a single botched car.
  • GM plans to shift more vehicle production to low-cost countries like Poland, Russia, China, India, Mexico and Brazil, says German magazine Der Spiegel via Automotive News. Citing a company document, Der Spiegel said GM will close two European plants and import more cars from Mexico, Korea and China to the continent by 2016. With European production at least 20% higher than demand, GM's European units — including Opel — lost $747 million in 2011.
  • Bloomberg News reports California startup Fisker is looking to gather around $1 billion from private investors by the end of this month to continue retrofitting a shuttered GM plant in Wilmington, Del. Missed deadlines on the Delaware facility earlier this year had federal regulators blocking the automaker from $336 million in remaining Energy Department loans. Fisker plans to build a model in Delaware to expand its lineup beyond the $102,000 plug-in Karma, which is built in Finland. It still needs about $100 million in private funding to hit the $1 billion mark, Bloomberg says.
  • GM subsidiary Vauxhall will launch a less-expensive version of the Ampera, a twin to the Chevrolet Volt, in England, according to England's Autocar magazine. Including government subsidies, the base Ampera will start at £29,995 — about £2,255 under the Ampera's cheapest trim today, Autocar says. There's no word whether the U.S. will see a less-expensive Volt along the same lines, but the price of the less-expensive Ampera — still nearly $48,000 at current exchange rates — makes chances slim.

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