Fiat Buys U.S. Government Stake of Chrysler, Takes Majority Control

Italian automaker Fiat is now the majority shareholder in Chrysler, after buying the U.S. government’s six-percent share of the company. Automotive News reports that Fiat paid $500 million for the six-percent stake, raising its ownership of Chrysler from 46 to 52 percent.

The deal saw Fiat paying the U.S. Treasury $500 million for its 98,461 Chrysler shares. The repayment comes just less than two years after Chrysler declared bankruptcy, on June 10, 2009. The Treasury initially invested $12.5 billion in Chrysler in 2009, and has so far recovered $11.2 billion from the company.

Chrysler had already repaid about $6.5 million in loans to the U.S. Treasury in late May, allowing Fiat to increase its stake in Chrysler from 30 to 46 percent. Reports suggest that the company’s next move will be to purchase the 1.7-percent stake in Chrysler currently held by the Canadian government.

With majority control of the company, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne will be able to have a direct role in shaping Chrysler’s future. Among his plans are a new generation of minivans; according to the Detroit News, Marchionne wants a more flexible platform for the next version of Chrysler’s vans, permitting narrower bodies to appeal to European customers, as well as the return of all-wheel drive. Chrysler dropped optional all-wheel-drive systems from its minivans in 2004; the Toyota Sienna is currently the only minivan in the U.S. to offer all-wheel drive.

Marchionne has reportedly accelerated the development of new Chrysler minivans from a 2014 launch to 2013. There will be a traditional-style minivan, as well as a “people carrier.” Marchionne has previously said that Chrysler and Dodge versions of the next-gen minivan will be divergent — perhaps one brand will have the “traditional” van and the other the “people carrier.” The vans will continue to be built in Windsor, Ontario.

The Detroit News reports that Chrysler’s next minivan platform could also spawn a small “lifestyle” pickup truck to be built in North America. No big surprise there: we had previously heard that Dodge would launch a small, unibody truck by 2013, and that it would be built on the same minivan line in Windsor.

Sources: Automotive News, Detroit News