Nardelli's Coup

Posted by: David Welch on September 6, 2007

There’s no telling what new Chrysler Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli will do to transform the troubled car company in the coming months. But I think it’s fair to say that no matter what he does from here on out, bringing in a heavy hitter like Jim Press—and stealing him from Toyota, no less—will stand as one of his most important moves. This hire shows that his turnaround job won’t be just another rounds of cost cuts that ushers in a few short years of profits, only to end up in the same position a few years later. Detroit’s carmakers have a tendency to drag themselves into the black after a crisis, but without finding a way to connect with consumers or fixing their profligate spending on discounts. They lose money, cut their way to profitability, lose more market share and end up in the red later. Chrysler seems to find itself near death every five to 10 years.

As the top executive for Toyota Motor Sales, Press presided over torrid growth. He also played a key role in building a brand that is both beloved by consumers and respected by competitors. Toyota managed to build factory after factory without overproducing cars. The company has avoided the dangerous treadmill of discounting that currently has Detroit’s carmakers in trouble. And he played a big part in Toyota’s product planning for North America, which always managed to read the consumer trends and find out what car buyers wanted ahead of most competitors. Getting in early on hybrid-electric cars, crossover suvs and rear-wheel drive luxury cars are three quick examples.

Now let’s look at Chrysler’s problems. Consumers want smaller, leaner crossover suvs. Chrysler came late to the party. Hybrids? Late again, though coming soon. Its sales and marketing strategy? Chrysler has only recently come to the realization that overbuilding cars and foisting them off on its dealers, rental agencies and the public is the wrong way to go. It depletes profits and gives brands a reputation as being a bargain center. Press has a big task ahead of him when it comes to fixing those problems. But he clearly knows how to reach out to consumers, work with car dealers and build brands in ways that Chrysler was unable to do. In short, hiring Jim Press is a huge coup for Nardelli and proof to anyone that he is dead serious about fixing Chrysler once and for all.

Reader Comments

Doug Korthof

September 6, 2007 4:16 PM

Fixing Chrysler may be beyond the reach of anyone but a psychic running a seance. They have no product to speak of, and dealers are a mess, IMO.

Chrysler is a near-death experience that went too far. The minivan is dead, the hemi is unwanted, the Ram is outclassed, and the Jeep is too small for everyone to ride on.

Diane Drussell

September 6, 2007 4:20 PM

GOOD LUCK TO THE GOOD, HARDWORKING FOLKS AT CHRYSLER!
MAYBE HE WON'T....
cut hours, cut benefits, take away little perks, add more programs (that don't benefit the company)...MAYBE HE WON'T MESS IT UP LIKE HE DID HOME DEPOT.

I can not even believe anyone hired him. That just makes me NEVER want to buy a Chrysler or anything affiliated with it.

Jon Becker

September 6, 2007 4:39 PM

Nardelli didn't do anything for Home Depot except rob them blind and return nothing. The moral of this story is that Chrysler should have hired Jim Press as Chairman and CEO, not Nardelli.

william bixler

September 6, 2007 5:12 PM

All I can say is everybody at Chrysler had better look out for job cuts,benefits cut,lower wages and the board of directors to become VERY wealthy at workers expense. Nardelli doesn''t give a shit about anything but his of shore bank accounts.

d smith

September 6, 2007 5:13 PM

Didn't Ford bring in a sales guru at one time to be President, remember the "its the tires not the car" guy. You better get some one at the top that knows AUTOMOBILES OR YOU WILL SUFFER THE SAME FATE!!

Donald Metzner

September 6, 2007 5:51 PM

Nardelli is a brilliant ceo/manager and hiring Jim Press while not alienating Tom LaSorda is proof of that. As a Chrysler dealer I could not be more optimistic of our future.

cbmtrx

September 7, 2007 5:13 AM

I can empathize with the US workers because jobs and livelihoods are at stake (aren't they always?), but--with a few exceptions--American cars generally suffer from poor build quality, low efficiency, low power-to-weight ratio, cheap materials, poor handling, and a sometimes maddeningly adolescent design sense.

Heck, I'd buy a Hyundai before I considered a Pontiac.

Who knows, maybe Nardelli will see the light and succeed in motivating Chrysler (read: America) to begin producing great cars like the Europeans and the Japanese.

Brandon W

September 7, 2007 8:51 AM

Chrysler needs to stop thinking like a Big 3 car-maker, with a full lineup, and instead focus on being a niche player. Each brand should have no more than four models. I love Jeeps and have a soft-spot for Chrysler, overall, due to personal experience with the brand. They have problems right now, for sure, but a smart executive who understands the market will steer the company into being a powerful niche player, and Jim Press might be that guy.

Jonathan Mannuzza

September 7, 2007 9:22 AM

The Minivan is not dead, Chrysler sold over 370,000 units last year.
The Jeep is the only product that can actually go off road.
The HEMI V8 is still popular.

I bought a Dodge Magnum R/T in 2005 after owning Hondas and Nissans for years, because I had many issues with my 2004 Acura TL.
I currently have 61,000 mile son the Magnum and to dat ethe car has been excellent and changed my view of American manufactuers. Albiet the interior materials aren't as nic elooking or feeling but the brakes, and wear and tear items have stood up far better than all of the Hondas I owned.

If Chrysler starts improving their fit and finish, interiors, they can do it.
People need to give American comapnies a chance and stop listening to Consumer repots a publication that doesn't knock the Japanese like Honda for putting crummy transmissions in their vehicles from 1999 - 2004 or Toyota for building a 5.7 V8 for the New Tundra that is cracking cam shafts.

Jonathan Mannuzza

September 7, 2007 9:24 AM

The Minivan is not dead, Chrysler sold over 370,000 units last year.
The Jeep is the only product that can actually go off road.
The HEMI V8 is still popular.

I bought a Dodge Magnum R/T in 2005 after owning Hondas and Nissans for years, because I had many issues with my 2004 Acura TL.
I currently have 61,000 mile son the Magnum and to dat ethe car has been excellent and changed my view of American manufactuers. Albiet the interior materials aren't as nic elooking or feeling but the brakes, and wear and tear items have stood up far better than all of the Hondas I owned.

If Chrysler starts improving their fit and finish, interiors, they can do it.
People need to give American comapnies a chance and stop listening to Consumer repots a publication that doesn't knock the Japanese like Honda for putting crummy transmissions in their vehicles from 1999 - 2004 or Toyota for building a 5.7 V8 for the New Tundra that is cracking cam shafts.


As far as Toyota is concerned, test driv ethe Camry then go test drive a Ford Fusion and Honda Accord, both cars are clearly superior in interior materials and handling and driveability.
toyota rarely scores at the top when it comes to handling.

D. Manning

September 7, 2007 10:01 AM

As a former HD Manager, I can only hope he learns some humility and doesn't believe his own hype that the corporate world revolves around him.

Terry

September 7, 2007 11:56 AM

Good for Nardelli. He ran off with a 210 million dollar package and now he can do the same to Chrysler.

Chrysler deserves to go down in flames.

This is living the American Executive dream baby!!!

Armando

September 7, 2007 1:01 PM

It does not take a PhD to realize and acknowledge that top-talent is required to perform in today's marketplace. Nardelli's so called coup of acquiring Jim Press is less than impressive. Given Nardelli's poor track record at HD, it stands to reason that this will not be his only top management acquisition. He clearly knows nothing about the auto industry and is surrounding himself with talent for obvious reasons. In spite of that, it is unlikely Chrysler will successfully re-emerge under Nardelli's rule.

random

September 7, 2007 3:02 PM

"This hire shows that his turnaround job won’t be just another rounds of cost cuts that ushers in a few short years of profits, only to end up in the same position a few years later."

No it doesn't. Hiring a big shot who was a glorified overseer for talented and motivated teams of designers and engineers is easy. Utilizing him in a confrontational culture of silos and fiefdoms so prevalent among American automakers, and getting him to make a good product is the hard part. Nardelli has to do a lot more then get a flashy name on the payroll to prove that he actually knows what he's doing and that he won't just help bury Chrysler once and for all.

Hdtex

September 9, 2007 12:33 PM

I worked "under" Nardelli for 3 years at Despot.

Get ready for a militaristic world view, neocon style leadership....and the lowest moral this side of Gauntanemo

Michael

September 13, 2007 10:27 PM

Chrysler has been inovative in many ways when everything was on the line. I hope they listen to the consumers and produce what we want. I believe their styling is decent and innovative. They just need to improve reliability and make great cars.

steve

December 13, 2007 10:44 PM

I drive a Dodge Ram.

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