Friday, October 5, 2007

Chrysler’s Road Ahead

Chrysler’s Road Ahead

Jim Press drove Toyota to the top of the U.S. car market. But can he do the same for Chrysler?

Carlos Osorio / AP
Chrysler’s new vice chairman and president, Jim Press, at company headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.

web exclusive
By Keith Naughton
Updated: 11:13 a.m. PT Oct 4, 2007

Oct. 4, 2007 - Jim Press shocked the automotive world when he jumped from Toyota to Chrysler last month. After all, Toyota is a juggernaut that just became the world’s largest car company, while Chrysler is struggling to survive as America’s newly independent No. 3 automaker. Chrysler’s new owners, Cerberus Capital Management hope to reverse more than $2 billion in recent losses with the help of Press, Toyota’s former top U.S. executive, and his new boss, Bob Nardelli, Home Depot’s ex-CEO. Press, 60, began his new job as vice chairman at Chrysler last week, taking charge of sales, marketing and product strategy. In his first week, he dropped in on a few car dealers, drove 80 models at the company’s test track and visited the design studio, where he peppered the stylists with suggestions, including where to put the cup holders. There are already 200 design changes in the works on Chrysler’s current and future models, Press said.

All three of Toyota’s brands are above average in J.D. Power’s quality survey, while all three of Chrysler’s brands are below average. How would you assess Chrysler’s quality?
There’s no question that Toyota has been and will continue to be the benchmark for quality. But I think the Chrysler products don’t get the respect they really deserve. That was one of the appeal points that brought me here. The reality is far better than the perception. If you look at the bones of the company, the products have an inherent emotional appeal to people who can appreciate a well-engineered vehicle. As the quality comes up, you’ll see our products accelerate substantially.

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