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Auto blogFri, 25 Apr 2014 16:28:00 EST
It's fascinating the way that one change to a complex system can have all sorts of unintended consequences. For instance, there are hundreds of new Chrysler Town and County and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans built in Windsor, Ontario, sitting in lots on the Detroit waterfront because of the energy boom in the Bakken oil field in the northern US and parts of Canada.
The huge amount of crude oil coming from these sites mostly use freight trains for transport, and that supply boom has resulted in a shortage of railcars to carry other goods. According to The Windsor Star, North American crude oil transport by train has gone from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 434,032 carloads in 2013. Making matters worse, some North American rail infrastructure is still damaged because of this year's harsh winter, and that's slowing things down even further.
Chrysler admits to The Star that it has had some delivery delays due to the freight train shortage. In the meantime, it's using more trucks to deliver its vehicles. Trucking is a far less economical solution, partially because a train can carry so many more units at one time, but alternatives are slim. The Windsor plant alone has a deal for 33 trucks to distribute the minivans around Canada and the Midwestern US.
Chrysler has had a lot of owners over the past few years alone, from Daimler to Cerberus to Fiat and the federal government. But it could be poised to gain some more before long. Like, a lot more.
The automaker has just announced that it has filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to issue an Initial Public Offering of common stocks. Chrysler hasn't revealed how many shares will be offered and at what price, however the shares in question will not come out of Fiat's approximate 60% majority shareholding but instead out of the 40% minority stock held by the UAW's VEBA retiree healthcare trust. Reports suggest that the IPO, which is being handled by JP Morgan, could encompass approximately 16% of Chrysler stock, initially valued at approximately $100 million.
Lest you think this is all part of Sergio Marchionne's grand plan to consolidate Chrysler and Fiat, the two auto groups over which he presides, think again. The filing, which still needs to be approved by the SEC, comes at the insistence of the UAW. Negotiations between Marchionne's management team and the union over Fiat's acquisition of the VEBA shares have stalled. If they manage to come to an agreement, however, the IPO would likely be taken off the table. So don't go calling your broker just yet, but you can analyze the official announcement below.
The public might associated ignition switch recalls with General Motors - and with good cause - but that's not the only automaker calling its vehicles back in to fix that sort of issue.
Last month we reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was investigating an array of Chrysler Group vehicles for electrical-related safety issues. The administration and Chrysler subsequently issued a recall for 700,000 Dodge Journey crossovers, Dodge Grand Caravan minivans and Chrysler Town & Country minivans. But while the Jeeps that were also under investigation were not covered in that recall, they are being addressed in a separate one now.
Although Chrysler reports that it is only aware of a single accident stemming from this issue, it is "committing now to conduct a recall out of an abundance of caution." The recall affects the 2006-2007 Jeep Commander and 2005-2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee, of which it reports there are 792,300 on the road: 649,900 in the United States, 28,800 in Canada, 12,800 in Mexico and a further 100,800 outside of North America.