DETROIT (AP) _ Chrysler's new chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli said
Friday he plans to keep the automaker's three brands but could cut
some products as he leads the company through a restructuring.
``Clearly Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep are all very, very valuable
brands,'' Nardelli said after a speech to the Automotive Press
Association. ``I think we have to look very hard at some of the
product within those brands.''
In one of his first public appearances since becoming chairman
last month, Nardelli wouldn't say which vehicles might go. Among
those struggling are the Dodge Magnum wagon, which saw sales drop 35
per cent in the first eight months of this year, and the aging PT
Cruiser, which saw a 25 per cent decline.
``We have to make intelligent decisions about the products and
the brands,'' said Nardelli, former CEO of Home Depot Inc. ``We
can't just have emotional attachments about some of the products and
brands that are out there.''
Chrysler's new owner, private equity firm Cerberus Capital
Management LP, has hired Nardelli and a handful of other new
executives to turn around the automaker.
Nardelli said he's pleased with the vehicles in Chrysler's
pipeline and will make investments to improve quality, a problem
that has bedeviled the company. The Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands
all scored below average in this year's J.D. Power and Associates
initial quality study.
``Those are the metrics by which consumers make their
decisions,'' he said. ``We're not going to fight those. We're going
to embrace them.''
Nardelli wouldn't say what he hopes the company will look like in
five years or put a number on the market share Chrysler is striving
for. Chrysler currently controls about 13 per cent of the U.S.
market and has little presence overseas. LaSorda has said the
company wants to double its sales outside North America by 400,000
by 2012, and Nardelli said LaSorda is leading efforts to make
alliances with foreign automakers.
Nardelli also said Chrysler will ``come to a viable solution''
with the United Auto Workers in the current contract negotiations,
but wouldn't discuss details. Nardelli said Cerberus isn't playing
any role in the talks. The current UAW contract expires Sept. 14.
``I'm confident there'll be a good outcome,'' Nardelli said.
Chrysler vice-chairman and president Tom LaSorda, who led
Chrysler before Nardelli was hired, is representing the company in
the talks. Nardelli voiced support for LaSorda and said he wants to
dispel rumors that LaSorda will leave once the contract talks end.
``He couldn't be more committed and resolved to be part of the
team,'' Nardelli said.
Nardelli said Cerberus has demonstrated its commitment to turning
Chrysler around by hiring some of the industry's brightest stars. In
the last two days, Chrysler has announced that Toyota North America
president Jim Press and former General Motors Corp. China chief Phil
Murtaugh will join the company. Nardelli said those executives are
drawn by more than a paycheque.
``This is more than financial. This is about trying to bring
Chrysler, this unbelievably iconic brand, to its proper place,''
Nardelli, a newcomer to the auto industry, said he has met with
dealers, suppliers, union leaders, designers and engineering teams
in his first month on the job. He also has talked to former Chrysler
chairmen Lee Iacocca and Dieter Zetsche.
``It's my responsibility to absorb everything I can as fast as I
can,'' he said.