Jim Press, Chrysler, at the 2009 Chicago Auto show

Jim Press, Chrysler, at the 2009 Chicago Auto show

Chrysler President and Vice Chairman Jim Press speaking before the Economic Club of Chicago at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 12, 2009.

Press addressed the industry as a whole in his speech:

“This January we hit an annual sales rate we call SAAR “ the key measure of U.S. auto market strength “ of just under 10 million unit’s.

To put that number in perspective, it’s the lowest “SAAR” since 1982.

When you index last months demand level for population it looks even worse. According to the February 6th issue of Automotive News, and I quote, “… adjusting that rate for 1980s population yields a demand level of 7.2 million ” lower than any on record.”

It would be a mistake to assume that this “10-million market” is an aberration. Instead, we need to accept and come to grips with it.

At Chrysler, for example, we’ve built into our planning the contingency that sales could stay at this level for up to four years.”

and talked about what Chrysler believes Fiat would bring to the table and to tomorrow’s buyers:

“Just last month, Chrysler LLC and Fiat S.p.A. entered into a preliminary non-binding agreement to establish a global strategic alliance.

We believe this alliance could provide significant strategic benefit’s to support our viability and long-term competitiveness in the form of product and platform sharing, global distribution, and operational and business efficiencies.

The Fiat group is world renowned for their best-in-class fuel efficient small cars and trucks. Their lineup would complement our current product portfolio with environmentally friendly small cars and powertrain technology (including clean diesel). And these products could be build right here in our North American plants.”

During the scrum I asked Press if he thought the car had become a burden around the consumer’s neck.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.