Chrysler Group LLC has added four banks to help underwrite its proposed initial public offering, as the U.S. automaker looks to launch the deal as soon as early December, according to people familiar with the matter.
Barclays Plc, Goldman Sachs Group, Morgan Stanley and UBS AG have been appointed as bookrunners in the offering, which is being led by JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the people said on Wednesday.
The IPO could price in December, the people said, declining to be identified because the information is private.
Chrysler declined to comment. Representatives for the banks either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
Chrysler, which is majority owned by Italian automaker Fiat SpA, filed paperwork for an IPO in late September after Fiat was unable to reach a buyout deal with Chrysler’s second-largest shareholder, a retiree healthcare trust affiliated with the United Auto Workers union.
While the IPO could happen within weeks, analysts have said that the healthcare trust and Fiat will come to terms on a buyout before the first shares are sold.
Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of both Fiat and Chrysler, has said he wants to merge the two companies to create the world’s seventh-largest carmaker.
Chrysler has come a long way from being nearly dead in 2009 when Marchionne, along with the U.S. Treasury and the UAW, agreed to a restructuring deal that left Fiat with 20 percent ownership.
Chrysler is now a profit center for Fiat, which has been hurt by the sagging sales for automobiles in Europe while Chrysler’s home North American market has seen sales rise nearly 50 percent since 2009.
Fiat’s ownership has grown to 58.5 percent and the UAW-affiliated health care trust for retired Chrysler workers owns 41.5 percent.
The VEBA healthcare trust and Fiat so far have remained far apart on valuing the No. 3 U.S. automaker. Some analysts have said the company is worth around $10 billion.
Analysts have said that Fiat and the VEBA will come to terms ahead of the IPO, even just hours before the launch of the offering, because by then a market value for Chrysler will be set.
In October, Marchionne said he hoped the IPO process would give a clear sense of Chrysler’s worth.
“One of the things I hope is that it will become very clear exactly what the markets think Chrysler is worth, which is the only real reference point,” Marchionne said on Oct. 3 in Italy.
“There’s a pretty clear process that leads to the IPO, and it places clear road markers that can be recognized by both sides,” he said.
UAW trusts for retired auto workers were set up in 2007 at Chrysler, as well as at General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co as a way for the financially struggling U.S. automakers to offload their obligation to pay retiree healthcare benefits.
The trust was initially supposed to be funded with cash. But as part of the 2009 financial crisis, the union agreed to take stakes in GM and Chrysler in lieu of cash.
With signs that sales of its Chevrolet Volt battery car could be coming unplugged, General Motors is offering potential buyers as much as $5,000 in incentives – making it the latest maker to try to cut prices in a bid to boost lagging demand for electric vehicles.
Whether the move will work remains to be seen, as GM has already trimmed the price on the Volt plug-in hybrid. But rival Nissan has had some clear success after cutting the price on its own Leaf battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, earlier this year.
Both vehicles were introduced to high expectations nearly three years ago, but they have so far consistently missed sales targets. Only a handful of battery-based vehicles have come close to meeting expectations, most notably the Tesla Model S.
That might be enough to convince a maker to pull the plug on a vehicle like Volt. But manufacturers like GM and Nissan are under heavy pressure to make their electric vehicle programs a success – at almost any cost – in part because of pressure they face in the nation’s largest state, California, where regulators require all major makers to offer a minimum number of so-called Zero-Emission Vehicles.
A California buyer can now purchase a Chevrolet Volt for as little as $28,495. The base price for the plug-in is $39,995 but all buyers qualify for $4,000 off on a 2013 model and $5,000 off for a 2012 Volt. They also can get an extra $1,000 if they are currently leasing a non-GM vehicle. Meanwhile, the federal government provides a $7,500 tax credit while the state kicks in another $1,500.
A number of other states now offer incentives to buyers of qualifying battery vehicles, as well.
Chevrolet also is now reducing lease pricing for the Volt to $269 a month for 36 months, with a $2,399 down payment.
Initially, demand for the Chevrolet Volt outpaced all its rivals but still fell short of its 10,000-unit U.S. sales goal in 2011 and an even more ambitious target of around 45,000 last year.
For the first five months of this year, GM has sold only 7,157 of what it prefers to call an extended-range electric vehicle, or E-REV. May sales, in particular, fell 4.3 percent, to 1,607. By comparison, the overall U.S. automotive market was up 8.2 percent for the month.
According to a report by Inside EVs, Chevy dealers have more than 9,000 Volts clogging inventories, vehicles they need to clear out before the 2014 models start rolling in.
The downturn in demand presents other problems for GM. The maker had high hopes for its electrification program and has been planning to use the underlying platform for additional models. So far, only two have been identified publicly. The Opel Ampera, a near twin of the Volt, is already on sale in Europe, China and a few other markets.
Meanwhile, GM plans to roll out a more lavish – and significantly more costly – plug-in model next year, the Cadillac ELR. There has been an ongoing debate within General Motors over the original decision to go to market with a relatively mainstream battery-car like the Chevrolet Volt, rather than focus on up-market customers with something like the ELR.
That’s the strategy Tesla has taken with the Model-S for which demand exceeded the start-up maker’s expectations during the first quarter, and which is now outselling the Volt. A well-equipped Model S with a 300-mile battery pack can top the $100,000 mark, yet Tesla has found demand for its high-end version so strong it dropped the least expensive, 160-mile model recently.
Among mainstream makers, however, price is clearly an object of resistance among potential buyers. That prompted Honda last month to reduce the lease price on its new Fit EV by a third, to $259 a month. Nissan, meanwhile, effectively reduced the price of the Leaf by 18 percent, or $6,000, when it launched a new, stripped-down model at the beginning of the year.
That followed 2012 sales that fell well short of target, acknowledged Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, calling it, “a disappointment for us.”
Makers like GM and Nissan have promised to reduce battery car prices as the cost of the underlying technology – especially their lithium-ion batteries – falls. GM officials have hinted the next-generation Chevy Volt could be “thousands” less.
But despite the high price tags for current models, buyers are still getting a bargain. Industry analysts have estimated it actually costs GM as much as $75,000 to build each Volt, or nearly twice the base price. While the maker won’t discuss such details, Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has publicly confirmed that the company will lose at least $10,000 for each of the Fiat 500e electric vehicles it recently introduced.
When that “check engine” light come on, there’s a good reason to get worried. Even if it doesn’t leave you stranded in an unfamiliar part of town after dark it’s likely to take a bite out of your savings, especially as recent studies have indicated automotive repair costs rose by about 10 percent last year.
That is, of course, an average that varied significantly by region. Vermont saw repair costs decline last year, according to a new study by automotive service site CarMD, making it America’s most affordable place to take your car in. At the other extreme was New Jersey where the typical visit to a service shop cost almost 50 percent more than in Vermont.
Traditionally, the West Coast is the place where repairs have been most expensive. But in its latest annual car-repair cost survey, CarMD found California among the Top Five, with the rest of those spots filled by states along the Eastern Seaboard, including not only The Garden State but North Carolina, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
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Repairs in the Northeast rose 11.6 percent in 2012, faster than the rest of the country, according to a study of 161,000 repairs.
“In 2012, we saw a dramatic shift in the top five most expensive states for average car repairs, as many drivers along the East Coast incurred rising auto-repair costs, while they simultaneously contended with Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath,” CarMD CEO Leon Chen noted. “Car owners in many states also continued to put off small repairs, contributing to cumulative failures with increased repair costs.”
Apparently, the “superstorm” was not only the cause of serious, flood-related damage but led many East Coast motorists to discover other problems that needed repairs.
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While New Jersey was the most expensive place for repairs — at an average $392.99, including parts and labor — Washington, D.C. saw the biggest overall increase, with repair costs jumping 20 percent compared to 2011
“This is partially attributed to the type of repairs being made,” noted CarMD. “Time-consuming repairs that cost over $1,000 accounted for nearly 10 percent of D.C. repairs in 2012, as compared with 7 percent in 2011, while quick-fix, gas cap-related problems were down five points.”
Though repair costs, on the whole, were up last year, there were a few notable exceptions, such as Vermont. In Wyoming they fell, on average, by 17 percent.
Anytime you go to the service shop you’ll wind up having to pay for a mechanic’s time. Colorado topped the list there, with an average $150.75 per visit. Vermont had the lowest labor cost, on average, at $115.90.
If you needed parts, the survey found that you likely paid a stiff premium in New Jersey, at an average $256.28, compared to Vermont, which had the lowest average, at just $153.82.
The state-by-state gap was especially apparent when it came to new hybrid vehicle technology. Replacing a battery in Nevada ran an average $4,409.94 last year. Jersey motorists actually caught a break here, however, with the lowest cost to replace a hybrid battery, on average just $2,005.05.
Incidentally, two of the states with the lowest average repair costs – Iowa and South Dakota – were found in the Midwest while two were located in the South or Southeast, Delaware and West Virginia.