Better Than New

Chrysler Can’t Become Toyota by morepete
September 6, 2007, 10:29 am
Filed under: Context for Innovation

Chrysler just lured away James Press, the president of Toyota of North America. It’s a huge coup in terms of its symbolic meaning — Toyota’s growth under Press has been stunning. He’ll be vice-chairman and co-president of the new Chrysler Group. It’s certainly the first hire that new owners Cerberus have made that give me hope they won’t just make the company lean as heck and dump them.

On the other hand, hiring Press is a Hail Mary from the brain trust at Chrysler. Bringing in a rival’s chief executive signifies low confidence. A lot of high-profile CEO and business leader hires go poorly — like new Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli’s record at Home Depot — when they come from fundamentally different cultures of business.

This is my concern about Press: Toyota has grown through Kaizen — incremental improvement. Chrysler has always been at its best when making interesting cars that really resonate with people, like the 300, the PT Cruiser or the original minivan. If Press tries to fit Chrysler into a Toyota mold, the results won’t please anyone.

But fingers crossed, eh? I’ve got a huge soft spot for Mopar muscle cars.