Bankrupt automaker Chrysler LLC idled its manufacturing plants on Friday and said its survival depends on quick court approval of its restructuring plan and the subsequent restarting of its operations.
Chrysler filed for bankruptcy on Thursday in New York and disclosed a reorganization plan that will put Chrysler's core assets into a new company owned by its workers, Italian car maker Fiat SpA and the U.S. and Canadian governments.
That plan has run into strong opposition from some of the automakers' lenders, who said late on Thursday that they expect to object to the transaction.
Corinne Ball, a lawyer for Jones Day who represents Chrysler, said during the company's first court hearing that the automaker had idled its plants. Chrysler said on Thursday that it planned to do so and that it would keep them closed for the 30 to 60 days it has planned for its restructuring.
Chrysler is aware that experts believe that a car company cannot survive bankruptcy, but Chrysler can, and must, Ball said.
We need to keep driving forward. We need to protect our core value and we need to keep safe our customers, Ball said.
Without the deal, the shutdown threatens the company's workers, suppliers and dealers, she said.
We idled all our plants -- our workers, network, supply chain -- they're all waiting on us to start up again, she said.
The company has 38,500 hourly and salaried workers, 23 manufacturing plants and facilities, and 3,200 dealers employing 140,000 people in the United States, it said in court documents.
It also said in court documents that it has more than $5.7 billion in outstanding auto parts and service supplier invoices.
While some lenders have withheld support for the plan, other parties like the dealers are on board.
The dealers are fully supportive of efforts to create a strong and competitive Chrysler -- indeed their livelihoods depend on it, Michael Bernstein, an attorney at Arnold & Porter LLC, representing Chrysler dealerships, said during the hearing.
The court hearing, held in the courtroom of Judge Arthur Gonzalez, was crowded with standing room only. The hearing had to be halted briefly after an associate for law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf standing with bankruptcy lawyer Martin Bienenstock, who is advising Chrysler Financial, collapsed in the heat.
The hearing began again after the associate was escorted out by paramedics.
Before the hearing wrapped up, the judge approved Chrysler's request to continue to pay employee wages, salaries and incentives.
The judge also granted the company's request to make good on customer and dealer obligations, including interim approval for warranties and extended service.
Other motions, such as interim approval of the company's $3.3 billion debtor-in-possession financing from the government, will be addressed at a hearing on Monday morning.
The case is in re Chrysler LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 09-50002.
(Reporting by Emily Chasan and Tom Hals, writing by Caroline Humer, editing by Dave Zimmerman)