At the beginning of 2014, Detroit may be bankrupt, but they’re cheering the five-year-old U.S. auto bailout in Italy. That’s because after being the beneficiary of billions in U.S. taxpayer largesse, Fiat, the leading Italian auto company, is going to buy its final stake in Chrysler from that other big bailout recipient, the United Auto Workers (UAW).
“Chrysler’s Now Fully an Italian Auto Company,” reads the Time magazine online headline. But wait a minute! Wasn’t the bailout supposed to be about saving the American auto industry?
As we noted in the piece, much of Chrysler’s profits from its overhauled line are going to prop up Fiat’s failing, money-losing Italian business, rather than to expanding production and jobs in the U.S. Moody’s had downgraded Fiat’s credit rating to “junk” even before the Obama administration arranged for it to acquire a Chrysler stake, and in Autumn 2012, Moody’s gave Fiat another downgrade that the Financial Times described as even “further into ‘junk’ territory.”
Around this time, Barron’s put it like this in a headline, “This time, Chrysler could bail out Fiat.” Actually, the Barron’s headline is slightly misleading in one respect — Fiat didn’t contribute much of anything to the Chrysler’s bailout.
In the 2009 deal overseen by the Obama administration’s auto task force, Fiat paid no money to acquire its initial 20 percent stake in Chrysler — only contributing some of its intellectual property, instead. Fiat would later pay $2.2 billion to raise its stake in the company to 58.5 percent.
Continuing the bailout shell game, Fiat will now pay fellow bailout recipient UAW $4.4 billion for its stake in Chrysler. All the while, the U.S. government has pitched in more than $12 billion in taxpayer infusions.
In “saving” the American auto industry, Obama gave an American company away. And he gave it away at the expense of pension funds and other secured creditors, which were given a much smaller stake in the new company than they would have been given under traditional bankruptcy proceedings. American manufacturing workers also lost out on the deal; many are now hostages to the woes of Fiat and the Italian economy.
According to Barron’s, “Chrysler’s resurgence has been so strong that it now provides a lifeline for Turin’s Fiat, which faces serious challenges in Western Europe.” Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told Barron’s: “The Fiat Group has a future because of Chrysler.” Similarly, Bloomberg reported that, “without Chrysler, the Italian automaker would have posted a first-quarter net loss” in 2012.
Full article: The Great Italian Auto Bailout — Courtesy of U.S. Taxpayers (Open Market)