The financially beleaguered Chrysler Corp. asked the government for $1.2 billion in loan guarantees today and was immediately told by Treasury Secretary G. William Miller that the proposal was "way out of line."
After a 2 1/2-hour meeting in Washington with top Chrysler executives, Miller said any government assistance "would have to be well below $1 billion" and told the company to redraft its plan if it expects Carter administration support in Congress.
The administration, which earlier rejected Chrysler's initial bid for a direct bailout of at least $1 billion in tax credits, has said it would consider supporting a move in Congress for $500 million to $700 million in loan guarantees.
In an inch-thick proposal for federal assistance that was released publicly from the company's headquarters here, Chrysler indicated it expects a staggering net earnings loss of $1 billion this year, considerably more than projected earlier, and faces a cash shortfall of up to $2.1 billion through 1982.
hrough a variety of corporate economies that already have been initiated, the company said it can raise about $900 million, leaving a gap of $1.2 billion.
To fill the gap, it proposed an immediate $500 million in loan guarantees, backed up by $700 million more in "contingent" loan guarantees that would be used only if needed.
Chrysler said it might be able to raise the $700 million "under the most favorable circumstances, although it [the company] is far less confident of its ability to do so." However, it "sees no means" of raising the remaining $500 million.
"I think we are going to see a substantial restructuring of that contingency," Miller told reporters, adding that "on the basis of discussions this morning" he expects that Chrysler will modify the plan, which he called preliminary.
Chrysler Chairman John Riccardo and President Lee Iacocca had not labeled the plan preliminary and did not indicate publicly if or how the plan might be modified. $"It is a difficult period for all of us," said Riccardo. He called the meeting "fruitful" but added: "I really think we've done all that we can."
Chrysler said it has taken drastic steps to improve its financial health, including reducing fixed costs by $1 billion annually, tapping available lines of credit, restructuring top management and pursuing a new products program requiring expenditures of $13.6 billion through 1985 to meet federal requirements and increase its current 10 percent share of domestic auto sales.
It said it is planning further sales of Chrysler interests abroad, a reduction of its basic car lines from five to three and other streamlining efficiencies.
he company projected that with federal aid it would be making money again by 1981, with net earnings of $393 million that year. It projects a loss of $482 million in 1980.
It said it envisions a "complete payback of the guaranteed loans by the end of 1985."
Under bank loan guarantees, like the $250 million guarantee that Congress approved for the Lockheed Corp. in 1973, the government pledges to make good on the loan if a company defaults on payments. In the case of Lockheed, the government was paid back in full and made some money.
Whether Chrysler can overcome Treasury Department opposition to a $1 billion-plus loan guarantee package or to tax credits, still the company's first choice, is doubtful. While congressional leaders say Congress may well go along with some form of aid under heavy company and union lobbying, there is strong resistance in many quarters, including some objections that Chrysler hasn't done enough yet to help itself.
Chrysler's proposal did not point to any further management overhaul and continued the company's commitment to a full-product line. It said producing only small cars would not be profitable, concentrating on larger family cars would run afoul of federal fuel-efficiency regulations and eliminating truck production would cripple its Dodge division.
Chrysler's disclosure that its losses this year could top $1 billion in what one official called a "worst-case scenario" portrayed a bleaker immediate outlook than earlier projections, which envisioned losses of something more than $700 million.
A one-year $1 billion loss would be a record for any company in the world, according to a Chrysler official. But the company predicted that by 1985 annual net earnings would reach $996 million and Chrysler's share of the domestic auto sales market would have risen from 10 percent to 12.4 percent by that year.
As it has before, Chrysler blamed its financial woes largely on the cost of meeting federal safety, pollution and fuel efficiency standards and on the effect of gasoline shortages and price increases on the sales of its most profitable, larger vehicles. With the nation in a recession, it said it could not count on a stronger economy or growth in auto sales to carry it through its "difficult" 1979-80 period.
Chrysler said it saved $142 million by closing or reducing plant operations, $204 million through personnel reductions, $30 million by trimming management and other white-collar salaries, $125 million through operational efficiencies and $62 million from an advertising cutback.
Chrysler soon will be in negotiations with the United Auto Workers, which Friday reached a costly three-year model contract for the auto industry with the General Motors Corp. The UAW, which has 123,000 workers at Chrysler, earlier rejected a company-proposed wage freeze but said it would consider concessions to Chrysler after settling with GM.