Indianapolis, Ind.

Indianapolis, Ind.

Daimler's sale of Chrysler to a private investment company could be the first step in a massive overhaul of American automobile companies.

The sale creates an alternative business model to the approach used since Ford Motor Co. went public on Jan. 17, 1956 — almost 40 years after General Motors stock first traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Daimler's reasons for shedding Chrysler at a bargain-basement price best frame the challenges facing Cerberus, the automaker's new owner. For Cerberus to succeed, experts say, the organization needs to cut operating expenses by as much as 30 percent, improve quality control and compete more aggressively in global markets, especially in China.

As a private company, Chrysler may be able to deal with operating costs more effectively. Health care for workers sits atop that list, as it does for America's other automakers.

As when it was bailed out by Congress in 1979-80, Chrysler has an opportunity to reinvent itself, and to possibly create operations more competitive with foreign automakers.

Astute consumers will watch carefully to see if Chrysler's new approach can produce higher-quality vehicles for lower prices. You can bet that Ford and GM will be watching, too.