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Paying the bill
Paying the bill
Chrysler is selling the Newark Assembly Plant in Delaware. where Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs are built.
Cerberus COO Mark Neporent, who serves on the Chrysler operating group, gets a daily report not only on the cash on hand but also on the number of cars sold to dealers and customers. The numbers have been awful. Still, Neporent says he is far from panicking.

"One obvious surprise is that the top line [revenue] has not been anywhere as high as we had hoped," he told Fortune in a rare interview. "Obviously, if this keeps up for another two years, we'll be concerned. But other than unit sales, we are ahead on every key metric," including earnings before interest, depreciation, and taxes, and capital expenditures

Cerberus says Chrysler finished 2007 with $9.5 billion in cash on hand-$1 billion more than it had planned. Fortune cannot report specifics, but the evidence presented at a meeting of company executives supports Neporent's optimism about Chrysler's cash management.

There's no question that's a good thing, and the sale of some nonearning assets, such as unused real estate near the Auburn Hills headquarters and two idled plants, will bolster Chrysler's cash position by another $1 billion.

But when it comes to turnarounds, money is not everything; cost cutting in and of itself does not bring prosperity. Ultimately, Chrysler has to demonstrate that it can make cars that sell at a profit.

NEXT: Seeking support

Last updated August 07 2008: 7:40 AM ET
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