Fiat Reinvents Chrysler

Sergio Marchionne

Sergio Marchionne at Fiat

Detroit seems buzzing today with news about the Chrysler restructuring under Fiat. The word is that Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, a “no-nonsense” kind of guy, is setting a rapid pace to revamp the organization, its manufacturing processes, and its product lineup for the future. For the present, Chrysler is galumphing along with its Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler offerings that not too many people are buying.

Jim Press at Toyota

Jim Press at Toyota

Deputy CEO Jim Press is also leaving the company, it was announced last week, and we can only speculate as to why. He was brought on by Cerberus in 2007 to bring the company to life with his long-term Toyota experience. Instead, as a “dealer guy,” he pushed more cars on dealers before the company’s fall, even though they were gagging on inventory, and then he terminated 789 of them, per new company policy. I would say this man’s life may be in danger.

Anyway, Fiat has been leaking some news about its transformation plans. We should know more on September 1. As Mr. Press departs, a new management structure will employ 23 managers, each of whom will report to Marchionne. All will have to identify value in their actions, even in sales calls. Wow, that should make the Feds happy.

The shop floor will take on a very different look.

In Chrysler factories across North America, workers are being reorganized into larger teams of about 10, from five now, and trained to perform every job instead of just one, Chrysler officials said. The number of supervisors is being reduced, and team leaders are gaining more responsibility…

If a problem is detected in a vehicle, it must be fixed immediately, stopping the line if necessary, which is similar to the approach used by Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp.

While the old Chrysler system was also based on the Toyota model, the practice was to finish the vehicle and then pull it aside to make repairs.

Judging from what we know about Chrysler quality, that repair area must have been like a parking lot. I wonder what Jim Press thought about that. Well, we wish him luck in his new job: ferrying Fiat 500s to dealers.

The Detroit News also reports that Chrysler will be “potentially selling Alfas as Dodges in the United States and putting an Alfa Romeo badge on Dodges for sale in Europe.” Let us have your opinion on that marketing maneuver.

—jgoods

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