And then there were two

For most of my life, Detroit was the center of automobile manufacturing in the world and the "Big Three" automakers - GM, Ford, and Chrysler - dominated the market.

Today, the "Big Three" became the "Big Two." Fiat, who purchased a majority stake in Chrysler when the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, announced that they are purchasing Chrysler's remaining shares and will take full control of the automaker.

New York Times:

The Italian carmaker Fiat said on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement to take full ownership of Chrysler, the smallest of the three American automakers, in a $4.35 billion deal with the United Automobile Workers retiree health care fund. The deal to buy out the trust's 41 percent stake, expected to close on Jan. 20, would make Fiat the world's seventh-largest automaker, Jaclyn Trop reports in The New York Times.

The agreement allows Chrysler and the union to end months of negotiations over the value of the U.A.W.'s stake. Union leadership had been trying to force an initial public offering to cash out its shares amid arbitration in a Delaware court over the value of the trust's stake. Fiat has held a majority stake in Chrysler since the automaker emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, and it has made no secret about its ambition to acquire the remaining stake.

Under the terms of the deal, Fiat is paying the trust $1.75 billion in cash, and Chrysler is making a $1.9 billion contribution. Chrysler also agreed to pay the trust $700 million in four annual installments once the deal closes. Ms. Trop writes: "The agreement to pay $1.75 billion to the U.A.W. means that Fiat will have paid a total $3.7 billion to acquire Chrysler, much less than the $36 billion Daimler-Benz paid for the company in 1998 or the $7.4 billion Cerberus Capital Management paid to acquire an 80 percent stake in 2007."

The Obama administration set up the marriage between Fiat and Chrysler as part of the auto company bailout in 2009. At that time, Chrysler looked like a loser. But times have gotten better for the former US automaker:

Chrysler's sales have soared recently with the success of new models including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ram pickup truck and Dodge Dart compact car. The company reported a quarterly profit during the first quarter of 2011 for the first time in five years, and repaid its government loans early.

Chrysler's overall sales in the United States rose 9.3 percent through the first 11 months of the year, as the Fiat brand, still a fledgling here, fell 1.4 percent. The Ram brand has been a bright spot for the company, with sales rising 22.9 percent through November. The Ram pickup truck is the fourth-best-selling vehicle in the United States.

Together, Fiat and Chrysler sold 4.5 million vehicles globally in 2012, according to OICA, an international organization of vehicle manufacturers. Toyota is the world's largest automaker, having sold 10 million vehicles, followed by General Motors, Volkswagen, Nissan-Renault, Hyundai and Ford. The merger will put Fiat and Chrysler just above Honda in size.  

I guess they're going to have to stop showing those commercials that make a big deal about Chrysler - and America - being back. Maybe they could dub them in Italian?

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