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Published: Tuesday, 12/18/2012

Chrysler’s comeback

U.S. car companies continue to post impressive results since General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. Their performance validates the federal bailout of both automakers.

Chrysler, with help from Jeep production in Toledo, has recorded a 22 percent domestic sales increase this year over the same period of 2011. The Jeep Wrangler posted record monthly sales in September, October, and November. Instead of shutting down for the holidays, Toledo’s Jeep assembly complex is operating an extra shift.

Chrysler’s profit was up 80 percent in the third quarter of 2012 over the year-ago quarter. The automaker’s revamped product line includes more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Some analysts say Americans are more willing to buy new cars and trucks because they’re regaining confidence in the economy. The average age of vehicles on U.S. roads is approaching a record 11 years. Hurricane Sandy’s destruction is stimulating demand for new vehicles.

Yet the auto industry’s improved fortunes are threatened by the deadlock in Washington over the fiscal cliff, which threatens a return to recession, middle-class tax increases, and higher unemployment. Those are hardly the ingredients of strong auto sales.

Chrysler has added hundreds of jobs in Toledo and Detroit in recent months. They don’t pay the hourly rates of years ago; Chrysler took over a paint shop at its Toledo facility, laying off dozens of workers, many with 30 or more years of seniority, and replacing them with lower-paid employees.

Still, since it emerged from bankruptcy, Chrysler has hired about 13,000 workers worldwide. Two-thirds of its 63,000 global workers are in the United States. Its comeback, and that of the U.S. auto industry, remains a success story that is worth celebrating.

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