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Tesla proven wrong about repayments

by Bill Cawthon on


In the ongoing spat between Tesla and Chrysler Group as to who was the first American automaker to repay government loans, there is only one winner: Chrysler. If the most recent repayment won’t satisfy Elon Musk, there is an earlier one that is not open to dispute.

In a big New York City ceremony on August 12, 1983, when Elon Musk was 12, Lee Iacocca appeared with a super-sized check for $813,487,500. It represented the final payment on $1.2 billion in federally guaranteed loans.

Chrysler repaid its government loans, in full and with all interest due, seven years early. At the time, Chrysler was, as it still is, an American car company.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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