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Not a car guy at Chrysler

May 21, 2009 - Paul Giannamore

So, let's say you're a bankrupt American automaker. You've been faulted for having no advanced product in the pipeline and your best hope for salvation is an alliance with an Italian automaker with a spotty reputation in the U.S. You need to name a new chairman for when you come out of bankruptcy.

Wouldn't you want to name a car guy? Someone with a real background at the car biz, from dealing with dealers to hanging around with engineers to making the beancounters realize that there's profit and loss and producing a good product that people actually want (not the current Dodge Avenger, for example)?

So, who is the New Chrysler's chairman?

Listen to this resume, diorect from Chrysler's PR folks:

"With more than 40 years of experience, (he) currently serves on the boards of Morgan Stanley, where he is the lead director, Schering-Plough Corporation, and Microvi Biotech Inc. He previously has served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of both Duracell International Inc. and Borden Chemical Inc. and as director of such companies as Electronic Data Systems Corporation and General Signal Corporation. During his tenure with McKinsey and Co. Inc., (he)worked with a major OEM client in the automotive industry. (He) currently is Chairman and CEO of 3Stone Advisors LLC, an investment firm that focuses on clean-tech companies. He holds an M.S., Industrial Economics from Iowa State University and a B.S., Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan."

Now, other than his industrial degrees and working with "a" major OEM client in the automotive industry during his "tenure with McKinsey Co.," where's the car guy credentials?

At Borden Chemical? Duracell? Or, after the disastrous Cerberus experience, does Chrysler need another investment banker with experience at "3Stone Advisors LLC"?

Uh-oh.

The problems in American industry accelerated in the 1990s when the thought seemed to be that management skills are interchangeable, i.e., if you can sell soft drinks, you can run a company that makes machine tools. We even had a soft-drink guy in charge at the newspaper for awhile in the 1990s.

Problem is, the skills aren't interchangeable. There used to be in this country a belief that someone who knew his industry, from the purchase of bolts to the high finance end, who came from the factory floor to the highest suites of power, was the ultimate executive.

Apparently, Chrysler, as an example of something that's been wrong in the nation for a long time now, hasn't learned anything from experience.

 
 

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