Chrysler Chief Robert Nardelli visited with Michael Eisner on CNBC's "Conversations With Michael Eisner" to talk about futuristic cars, hybrids, the failed electric car of a decade ago and the money going into the auto industry now.
The program airs tonight at 9p ET & 10p PT, and re-airs Sunday night at 10p PT.
10:46:48:00 Should Chrysler a decade ago been looking at the electric car more seriously and the hybrid more seriously? Or was the consumer so demanding the small trucks, the large trucks, the SUVs, that it was a waste of money to invest in that kind of technology?
10:47:04:00 Well, as you remember, Detroit did have an electric car. It didn't have near the sophistication and the innovation technology that we have today that we're working on, but it was rejected by the customer. And, again, if you look, people wanted bigger cars because they bought horse trailers. They wanted bigger trucks because they were hauling boats from this unbelievable bubble we saw in our economy. Now, your point is, yeah, the-- the government passed a CAFE standard, that's 100 billion
10:47:37:00 And-- and so-- what it's doing is adding to the challenge of trying to run these companies, maintain liquidity through this period. So what we're having to do, this is-- this is not a bailout. This is very specific, very specifically targets funds that are only awarded if it-- when the grant is presented for technology.
10:48:01:00 And that is gonna happen because the states, both candidates need Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan-- those states, so both candidates are supporting this. Although with Fannie Mae and Bear Sterns and some of these other situations going on now, do you think it's going to be harder for the government to do what the papers will say is a bailout?
10:48:27:00 Well, let me--
10:48:28:00 You're saying it's an investment.
10:48:30:00 Yeah-- absolute, Michael, look, this is right at the heart of what we need to do in our country. Are we serious about energy independence? We are at Chrysler, I think they are. Are you serious about improvement in greenhouse gases, CO2 reduction? We are. Are we serious about driving innovation and new technology that allows us to achieve the first two objectives, energy independence, environmental improvement. If you believe in that, and I think we do, holistically, we do at Chrysler, the government I think is investing-- kind of putting their money where their mouth is about-- about these initiatives. So it's not a bailout. God knows, we're-- we're working as hard as we can.
10:49:12:00 We've taken about $2 billion of fixed cost out in the last seven, eight months. We've taken a million units of potential capacity out of Chrysler. We're driving vigorously to get quality, perception, reliability up. We've made literally four or 500 line item changes to enhance our vehicles, to improve our customer-- perception and-- and acceptability.
10:49:36:00 In the meantime, we're spending well over a billion dollars to make sure we're on a glide path to achieve the CAFE standards by 2015. So this would allow me to continue to stay on track, to make those investments as opposed to having to furlough hard-working men and women within the company. So this is not a bailout.
10:49:54:00 This is investing in our future.