Chrysler to Tesla: Not So Fast on Payback Claim

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DETROIT (TheStreet) -- Tesla is calling itself "the only American car company to have fully repaid the government," but Chrysler said that's a stretch.

"Short memory or short-circuit?" asked Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri late Wednesday, on a company blog.

"The information is unmistakably incorrect," Ranieri wrote. "It's pretty well-known that almost exactly two years ago -- May 24, 2011 -- Chrysler Group LLC repaid (in full and with interest) U.S. and Canadian government loans more than six years ahead of schedule."

In a press release issued Wednesday, start-up electric car maker Tesla said it had wired $451.8 million to the Department of Energy, paying off the entire loan with interest, following earlier payments in 2012 and the first quarter of 2013.

In 2011, Chrysler paid back $5.9 billion it owed the U.S. government as well as $1.7 billion it owed to Canada. "The original loans were repaid in full, more than six years ahead of schedule, along with the payment of accrued interest and additional consideration," Chrysler said at the time.

The loans enabled Chrysler to emerge from bankruptcy in partnership with Fiat, which now owns 58.5% of the company and wants to buy the rest. In addition to the loans, Chrysler received a $12.5 billion government bailout in 2008, before it filed for bankruptcy protection. The government recouped all but $1.3 billion of the bailout funds.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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