Thursday, December 4, 2008

LaSorda expects no layoffs now at Chrysler


TOLEDO -- Chrysler LLC's Tom LaSorda does not expect the automaker will lay off any workers involuntarily this month, saying Wednesday that the company met its salaried headcount reduction goals in November.

As part of its effort to slash costs and restructure operations, the Auburn Hills automaker announced in October plans to cut its white-collar workforce by about 5,000 people.

Chrysler, which is seeking $7 billion in federal assistance from Congress, offered buyout and retirement packages through November and had warned that if those efforts weren't successful, involuntary separations could occur in December.

"We're not expecting layoffs in December," LaSorda, a Chrysler president and vice chairman, said at the company's Jeep plant following a rally. "We had a very successful take rate from the programs. ... The take rates were above our expectations."

The 5,000 job cuts, which included both salaried and contract workers, came on top of previous plans to eliminate 29,000 jobs. Chrysler said it had approximately 63,400 employees in September.

On Wednesday, Chrysler employees also were told that five of the automaker's product teams -- Jeep, truck, car and minivan, Project D, and street and racing technology -- were being consolidated into three teams, according to a company memo obtained by the Free Press.

A notable change includes the announcement that Mark Chernoby, the Chrysler vice president leading the so-called Project D team, was appointed vice president of alliance partnerships. Project D has been a top project within Chrysler to develop a midsize car to replace the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger.

Analysts have speculated that Chrysler could turn to a partnership, possibly with Nissan Motor Co., to bring a new midsize car to market.

Last month, Frank Klegon, Chrysler executive vice president for product development, told Automotive News that Chrysler's next step in the midsize car project is to decide whether it should develop a new platform, modify a current one or partner with another automaker.

Other changes announced Wednesday, include:

• Scott Kunselman, who had been vice president of the Truck Product Team, has been named vice president of the Jeep/truck product team.

• Daniel Knott, who had been vice president of the Jeep product team, has been named vice president of the Car/minivan/SRT product team. Project D is apparently folded into this team. Kipp Owen, director of street and racing technology, will now report to Knott.

• Larry Lyons, who had been vice president of the car and minivan product team, has been named vice president of core components, process and international engineering. He succeeds James Issner, who is retiring.

Also, Roger Monforton Jr., vice president of product technology strategy, and Deborah Morrissett, vice president of regulatory affairs, are retiring. Employees were told other announcements and appointments will be coming.

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