Chrysler repays government loans

One of the Detroit car companies bailed out during the financial crisis said Tuesday it had repaid $6.7 billion in loans to the federal government and Canada, plus interest.

Chrysler said it was paying both the initial money the government put up in June 2009, as well as $1.8 billion in interest, six years ahead of schedule. The company borrowed $5.1 billion from U.S. government and $1.6 billion from Canada.

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"Less than two years ago, we made a commitment to repay the U.S. and Canadian taxpayers in full and today we made good on that promise," Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. "The loans gave us a rare second chance to demonstrate what the people of this company can deliver and we owe a debt of gratitude to those whose intervention allowed Chrysler Group to re-establish itself as a strong and viable carmaker."

The controversial auto bailouts originated under former President George W. Bush in 2008, but it was President Obama who was widely criticized in 2009 for continued intervention in the affairs of the auto companies as his administration managed the assistance to Chrysler and General Motors.

Federal officials placed conditions on the loans, which critics said were not placed on assistance given in 2008 to Wall Street banks during the economic free fall. The government also memorably removed the head of General Motors in 2009, leading critics to derisively refer to the car company as "Government Motors."

President Obama responded in a news conference by famously declaring, "I don’t want to run auto companies. I don’t want to run banks.”

"I’ve got two wars to run,” Obama said in April of 2009. “The sooner we can get out [of Chrysler and GM], the better off we’re going to be.” 

The Obama administration has sought to take credit for the revival of the American car companies, saying they would not have survived the economic downturn if the president had not shown them "tough love." 

Tuesday, the White House said Chrysler's repayment "marks a significant milestone for the turnaround of Chrysler and the countless communities and families who rely on the American auto industry."

"Supporting the American auto industry required making some tough decisions, but I was not willing to walk away from the workers at Chrysler and the communities that rely on this iconic American company," Obama said in a written statement released Tuesday.

"I said if Chrysler and all its stakeholders were willing to take the difficult steps necessary to become more competitive, America would stand by them, and we did.," Obama said. "While there is more work to be done, we are starting to see stronger sales, additional shifts at plants and signs of strength in the auto industry and our economy, a true testament to the resolve and determination of American workers across the nation."

This story was updated with new information at 1:17 p.m.