Factory workers at Chrysler will get profit-sharing checks of about $1,500 next month as they share in the automaker's improbable turnaround.

About 26,000 union-represented workers in the U.S. should get the payments under Chrysler's contract with the United Auto Workers union that was signed last fall.

Chrysler wouldn't say how much the workers will get. The profit-sharing figure is based on an Associated Press analysis of company earnings, and the labor contract formula for profit-sharing.

The checks are based on Chrysler's $2 billion operating profit for 2011, reported on Wednesday. Chrysler reported full-year net income of $183 million, its first since 1997.

The payments are another sign that Chrysler has recovered from its near-collapse in 2009, when it needed a $12.5 billion government bailout and a trip through bankruptcy protection to stay in business. Chrysler has since repaid its U.S. and Canadian government loans by refinancing them, but the U.S. government says it will lose about $1.3 billion on the bailout deal, which included Chrysler's financial arm.

Chrysler predicted an even better 2012 with total U.S. auto sales projected to rise by more than 1 million to about 14 million. On Wednesday, the company said its January sales rose 44 percent compared with a year earlier. The company, which is majority owned by Italy's Fiat SpA, forecast a net profit of $1.5 billion this year with an 18 percent revenue increase, to $65 billion. Its share of the U.S. market, where it gets 85 percent of its profits, rose 1.3 percentage points last year to 10.7 percent.

CEO Sergio Marchionne said Wednesday that both salaried and hourly workers would get profit-sharing checks, but he would not reveal the amounts.

He told employees in an email that they have earned the rewards.

"You have been to hell and back, and you defied predictions of our demise," Marchionne wrote. "Your efforts rewrote the history that so many naysayers had forecast."

Even with the 2011 profit, workers at Chrysler won't get as much in profit-sharing as their unionized counterparts at Ford and General Motors.

Ford will make profit-sharing payments of around $6,200 each to its 41,600 U.S. hourly employees in March. GM workers are expected to get more than the $4,000 they received last year. The company announces its fourth-quarter and annual earnings on Feb. 16.