After months of negotiating for a way to buy the 41 percent of Chrysler that Fiat doesn't currently own, CEO Sergio Marchionne is hoping an initial public offering will move the process forward.
Late Monday, Chrysler and the United Auto Workers retiree healthcare trust fund filed papers for an IPO to sell a small percentage of the company to the public.
(Read more: Chrysler IPO to bring shareholder battle to a head)
As Marchionne has said numerous times, Chrysler is no longer a company filled with employees worried about losing their jobs. Four years after going through bankruptcy, Chrysler is charging forward.
This is a North American company
Chrysler has long been the one automaker in the Big 3 that has failed to invest and grow sales around the world. While Marchionne and his team are targeting greater growth overseas, especially in China, this is a company that relies on the U.S. and Canada for 86 percent of its total sales. Fortunately, the U.S. market has been red hot over the last three years and the demand for new vehicles has been strongest with trucks and SUVs, the two types of vehicles that are a strength for Chrysler.
Meanwhile, Chrysler is woefully short of both products and production in both Europe and China. China is a particular weak spot. Marchionne has plans to expand the Jeep brand in China, but it has been slow in developing. Realistically, it will take three to four years before we see China become a legitimate growth market for Chrysler. When that happens, the Jeep brand is in a perfect position to soar in that market.
Jeep is a sleeping giant
Talk with executives at GM, Ford, or any other automaker about that one part of Chrysler they covet, and almost all of them will say it is the Jeep brand. It's a sleeping giant. Last year, Jeep global sales more than doubled but most of that growth was in North America. In the rest of the world Jeep has little presence, but great brand recognition. Chrysler has plans to eventually build Jeep models in China to be sold in China. Why? The Chinese will likely snap up the SUV with an All-American name and the kind of aggressive styling that will work in that country.
Thirty-one percent of Chrysler's global sales are Jeep models and that will surely grow.
Fiat, the parent with issues
Make no mistake, the main reason Fiat wants to buy all of Chrysler is to have the free cash flow of the American automaker. Fiat needs Chrysler cash to help it further expand. The European automaker is still wrestling with a weak market in Europe and too much capacity in that continent. The global auto game in 2013 is all about being balanced around the world. Right now, Fiat skews heavily toward Europe with a strong position in Latin America and relatively little in Asia. Eventually, Fiat wants and needs to shore-up that weak position in Asia. That would be much easier if it owns all of Chrysler.
—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.
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