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What Nardelli Should Do At Chrysler.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on August 9, 2007

Stop what you are doing and jump to Jessie Scanlon’s Q&A with Doblin’s innovation consultant Larry Keeley on how Robert Nardelli should remake Chrysler. It is the very best insight I have seen on this, thanks in large part to Jessie, who co-founded the Innovation & Design channel with me and is now senior writer for I&D. The Cyberus folks, if any of you are online, should use this as your gameplan for the next 24 months.

Here are a couple of insights from Keeley:

These guys are trying to focus on the same old market segments. It is just so tired. Every single company at every brand offers every single variant. I can get an SUV from Porsche, from BMW (BMW), from Cadillac (GM), from Mercury, from Ford, from Chevy, from Buick, I mean come on, guys. That only makes sense if you look at the industry from the vantage of a manufacturer. It only works if you think about the world in terms of factory efficiency. The industry knows nothing about the frontier needs of the consumers. Every time a team does work in that area, the managers say, “Yes well that is an interesting vehicle, but we wouldn’t be able to produce it at a mass scale and so my manufacturing wouldn’t be efficient.”

The places the industry is being reinvented are in India and China where you can buy kit cars that you assemble yourself. They are more modular, more customizable, and easier to maintain. If I wanted to create a big winner for Chrysler, I would help them to devise an approach that is so different from the way the rest of the mainstream industry is behaving. Every industry and every company needs to learn from the periphery rather than the core. Change always happens at the periphery.

Six Sigma fights innovation every time. It’s about performance of known attributes in a known market. That’s a very different approach than learning from the periphery. That would require getting some teams to travel to different parts of the world and getting them to see and understand people who don’t own cars, who don’t know how to drive a car. It also means recognizing that if all of those people started to own cars and adopt American driving habits, the planet is history. He has to take a Henry Ford approach of revolutionizing transportation. And again, I don’t know how he can do that in a company on such a small leash to show improvement. This is at least an eight-quarter project.

He should tell his team, “Guys—if you want to keep your jobs, here’s what you have to tell me in three months. How can we produce vehicles that everywhere in the world people would be excited to own, that are relevant to the lives they are living rather than the nostalgic idea of American car ownership, that responds to their busy lives, their terrible traffic jams, etc. Tell me about cars that are so compelling that people everywhere would want them and be able to afford them.”

Reader Comments


August 9, 2007 11:20 PM

chrysler would have been a wonderful case. - freed from the quarterly reports to wall street, free for some real mid-term risk taking and gutsy innovation... - it could have been (maybe!) such a wonderful case -- apple on wheels so to say -- but it won't.

the times they are not changing.
at least not as fast or as completely as we would want them to.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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