Chrysler Group Chief Executive Tom LaSorda has spent the past few days soothing the nerves of employees and dealers as stories swirl about a possible sale of his company.
LaSorda sent an e-mail message to workers on Wednesday saying that he knows there have been a “frenzy of rumors” since last week’s announcement that German parent DaimlerChrysler AG is seeking partners and strategic options for its U.S. operations.
Chairman Dieter Zetsche wouldn’t rule out selling Chrysler, and late last week, reports surfaced that General Motors Corp. was among the entities interested in buying the company.
In his message, LaSorda said he couldn’t respond to the reports because of legal requirements, but said the DaimlerChrysler Board of Management has a duty to consider all options.
“It may take weeks or months before official comments can be made on some issues,” the e-mail said, adding that the DaimlerChrysler board has strongly endorsed the struggling Chrysler’s recovery plan.
“Meanwhile, our job is very clear. Our mission is to produce great cars and trucks, to take care of our customers and to restore profitability,” he said in the e-mail. “Whatever fork in the road we may take, we first have to make sure we’re on the road — and the recovery and transformation plan is that road.”
Last week the company announced plans to shed 13,000 jobs, including 11,000 production workers and 2,000 salaried employees as it trims expenses and factory capacity to match declining sales. It also announced the closure of one plant and layoffs at several others.
LaSorda said in the e-mail, first reported Thursday in The Detroit News and later confirmed by the automaker, that information on voluntary separation and early retirement programs will be communicated to employees in the next few days.
LaSorda also visited two dealers in the Los Angeles area and will talk to others on Thursday, said company spokesman Mike Aberlich.
“Tom is very, very focused on communicating as directly as he can. He has a calming effect on people,” Aberlich said.
GM won’t comment on reports that it is interested in buying Chrysler, calling them speculation. But officials wouldn’t deny the reports, either.
Chrysler last week announced a 2006 operating loss of $1.475 billion and said it expects to show losses through 2007. DaimlerChrysler earned $4.26 billion in 2006.