Tuesday, May 29, 2007

LaSorda picks ally for top post

Simon Boag
New purchasing boss Boag has old ties with Chrysler chief

Robert Sherefkin and David Barkholz
Automotive News
May 28, 2007 - 1:00 am

DETROIT -- The key thing about Simon Boag, Chrysler's new purchasing chief: He's Tom LaSorda's guy.

Boag (rhymes with "vogue") is a manufacturing expert who can match Chrysler CEO LaSorda's deep knowledge of production. Years ago, the two Canadians worked together at General Motors' CAMI assembly plant in Ontario. More recently, Boag was chief of production planning for the Mercedes Car Group in Germany. Now they've reunited.

LaSorda wants new blood and a new bedside manner for his company's all-important supplier relations post. Last week, Chrysler announced that Boag would replace Peter Rosenfeld, executive vice president of procurement, who is leaving the company.

Rosenfeld, 49, was viewed as a finance guy with bureaucratic tendencies. The 41-year-old Boag knows what Chrysler needs to get lean.

"Simon will bring more energy to the position," said a source familiar with the change. "He gets the message. Peter operated at a different wavelength than Tom."

It's unclear whether Rosenfeld quit or was forced out after 25 years at Chrysler. A source close to the situation says Rosenfeld and LaSorda had a "mutual understanding that it would be best for him to leave."

Just hours after Chrysler announced its new purchasing chief, Rosenfeld held a teleconference to reassure the CEOs of his 16 largest suppliers. Rosenfeld was "upbeat and positive about what the changes at Chrysler mean for suppliers," said a vendor. "The gesture of contacting suppliers underscores the value that (Chrysler) places on its relationship with suppliers."

Chrysler spokesman Kevin Frazier declined to comment.

Simon Boag
Age: 41
New title: Chrysler executive vice president, procurement and supply
Previous jobs: Head of production planning for Mercedes Car Group in Stuttgart; vice president of assembly and stamping for Chrysler
Other employers: Held several positions at GM. He was CEO of GM-Argentina and was president of CAMI Automotive, a GM-Suzuki joint venture
Academic: Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, University of Toronto; master's degree in management, Stanford

There is one other bit of unfinished business: When DaimlerChrysler AG announced the sale of the Chrysler group to Cerberus Capital Management LP, it indicated that the new Daimler AG no longer would have a global purchasing position on its board.

That leaves global purchasing chief Tom Sidlik in limbo. Until the deal is complete, Sidlik retains his title as the board member in charge of global purchasing. Chrysler has not said what the future holds for Sidlik.

One of Boag's top priorities will be to nurture Project Magellan, Chrysler's effort to buy more parts made in low-cost countries.

In recent months, Rosenfeld had set aside day-to-day purchasing responsibilities to run Magellan. Chrysler hopes to buy $5 billion worth of parts annually from low-cost countries, but it could make the automaker vulnerable to global supply disruptions.

So Boag has a lot to worry about. But he won't have to blow up Chrysler's purchasing operation and start from scratch. Two independent supplier surveys conclude that Chrysler enjoys smoother relations with suppliers than General Motors or Ford Motor Co.

Over the past three years, Chrysler has sharply improved its ability to encourage and carry out supplier innovation, reports a just-released Automotive News supplier survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. (See story, Page 1.)

But in recent months, the automaker's efforts to improve relations with suppliers appear to have stalled, concludes a second report by suburban Detroit consultant John Henke Jr. "The early indications are that Chrysler is now treating its suppliers in a more adversarial fashion than in the past," reports Henke, president of Planning Perspectives Inc. Henke's survey will be released June 4.

The bottom line: While Chrysler treats suppliers better than Ford or General Motors, it still lags behind the Japanese automakers. Is the glass half full or half empty? Boag soon will find out.

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