Not to oversell the situation, but we may very well be witnessing the end times for Chrysler as an automaker.
One in four salaried workers at Chrysler will be out of a job by year's end, according to a statement released by Chrysler this morning.
The statement did not identify how many jobs the automaker will eliminate but spokesman Michael Palese said the cuts will total 25 percent of the company's salaried workforce.
According its own figures, Chrysler employs nearly 17,300 salaried workers. So today's cuts may total more than 4,300 jobs.
The first round of job cuts will come with voluntary retirement and employee buyout offers, according to the statement. Even still, layoffs are expected to come before the end of the year.
Discretionary spending and operating overhead will also be cut to the bone as Chrysler's owner, Cerberus Capital Management negotiates for a potential sale to General Motors. As reported earlier, Cerberus is also courting Renault for a potential sale of the Jeep division.
A hailstorm of pink slips
Today's news comes a month after Chrysler cut 1,000 salaried jobs and a day after the announcement that it would close its plant in Newark, Del., and cut a full shift from the Toledo, Ohio Jeep plant, trimming 1,825 more jobs in the process.
Since February 2007, Chrysler has eliminated 35,000 jobs. GM is also rumored to announce another round of salaried job cuts by the end of the year.
Speaking with Bloomberg, Dennis Virag, president of Michigan-based Automotive Consulting Group said Chrysler and General Motors have to do all they can to stem the outflow of cash from the organization.
Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli released a statement attributing the latest job cuts to the fastest contraction ever in auto industry sales. "These are truly unimaginable times for our industry," said Nardelli in the statement. "We continue to be in the most difficult economic period most of us can remember."
Doubts emerge over Renault deal
Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that Renault is downplaying rumors of a potential partnership between Chrysler, Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan. Renault had recently expressed interest in purchasing Chrysler's Jeep division; the reaction by Renault may be a sign that the French automaker is no longer interested in the Jeep lineup.
Speaking with Reuters, UBS analyst Tatsuo Yoshida said Nissan and Renault have little incentive to spend the human and fiscal resources needed to aid the ailing American automaker.