DETROIT (Reuters) - Chrysler LLC plans to introduce seven major vehicle models in 2010 and remains on track to meet its internal financial targets for 2008, Vice Chairman and President Jim Press told reporters on Wednesday.
Press, who was marking his first anniversary with the struggling U.S. automaker, also said the potential government support of $25 billion or more for automakers as loan guarantees could help accelerate the development of advance technologies.
“For a beginning, $25 billion is an appropriate place to start,” he told reporters, adding that the loan guarantees would not constitute a bailout of struggling U.S.-based car makers and parts suppliers.
Press said Chrysler has been working on developing a range of electric-drive vehicles, including plug-in hybrid cars, but declined to specify a time-line for the launch of such vehicles.
“We are very seriously looking at the development of electric cars,” he said. “I think the battery technology is moving forward, and we have made good progress in adapting these new technologies and bringing them from the laboratory to the street.”
Press also said the automaker is developing a mid-size or what’s known as a “D segment” vehicle but declined to give details.
Like larger competitors General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co, Chrysler — majority-owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management — has been hit hard by the sharp decline in sales of pickup trucks, SUVs and vans that followed the rise in gas prices this year.
Press said the automaker was still “on target” to meet its internal financial goals for 2008.
“We haven’t fallen off the table yet,” he said.
The company, which has released limited financial data since Cerberus bought it from Daimler AG about a year ago, ended June with $11.7 billion in cash and had earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of $1.1 billion in the first half of the year.
Chrysler, which is restructuring its operations, has seen sales fall 24.5 percent through August this year.
Press says U.S. industrywide sales rate in September so far is better than July but is tracking less than August.
September sales rate is “between July and August,” he said.
U.S. auto sales fell to an annualized rate of 13.72 million units in August, which was sharply down from a 16.3 million rate a year earlier, but up from the 16-year low of 12.55 million in July.
To cope with lower demand, Chrysler has cut production, slashed jobs and closed factories.
Press said Chrysler has cut 1 million units of production in the past year to match a smaller U.S. market but has no plans to close any more plants.
Additional reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Brian Moss, Phil Berlowitz and Bernard Orr