“Chrysler could have failed,” he said. “They were in danger of disappearing completely. They survived by the skin of their teeth.”
But the company has survived to the point, now, where in some ways it is keeping Fiat afloat, Cole said.
He said Chrysler has made good decisions, including its decision to manufacture eight- and nine-speed transmissions.
“Everybody is moving to more-speed transmissions,” he said.
Marchionne said with more gears, these transmissions can run more often in their optimal speed ranges, providing better fuel economy and vehicle performance.
And at least temporarily, Chrysler will be the only automotive manufacturer producing these transmissions. Cole said that should give the company a competitive edge in the market.
“But victory is only temporary in this world,” he said.
Ford and General Motors are working together on eight- and nine-speed transmissions for their vehicles, he said. Cole expects those to be finished in the next year or two.
Still, Chrysler’s announcement is a big deal, Cole said.
“We’re seeing jobs come back,” he said. “That tells you things are getting better.”
Chrysler’s investment will bring 850 jobs to Tipton and an additional 400 to Kokomo.
It will take Chrysler’s employment in north central Indiana from 6,100 to 7,350 — a 20.4 percent increase in its work force.
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said this will make Chrysler the state’s biggest private company north of Indianapolis.
“A short time ago, people thought Chrysler could not be saved,” Goodnight said.
Now, the company has made one of the largest economic development announcements in north central Indiana history, he said.
Pence agreed. Being home to the largest transmission-manufacturing facilities in the world is a source of pride, he said.
“Our past and our future is in manufacturing in the state of Indiana,” he said. “Indiana is many things, but at its core, we make things and we grow things.”