– New Chrysler LLC President and Vice Chairman Jim Press, who came to the auto maker from rival Toyota Motor Corp., said he hopes to bring some of the longer-term, customer-focused decision making from his former employer and said its new private-equity ownership will allow Chrysler to be fast and nimble, according to www.CNNMoney.com
In an interview posted on the company's media blog, Press also reiterated his confidence in Chrysler's ability to gain market share. While the auto market is "challenging," Chrysler's products are appealing and have "strong bones" and the dealer body is strong, he said.
Press, who was tapped by new Chrysler majority owner Cerberus Capital Management LP to head up sales, marketing and product strategy — also acknowledged the auto maker's competitors are getting more fierce, but also face their own issues.
"They also have been here for a while and they're starting to face a little bit of a headwind themselves and I think that opens the door for us," Press said. "We're nimble, we have new ownership. Our new ownership has empowered us to do things right. We don't have a lot of constrains that other companies do. We can be nimble, we can be fast, we can be flexible, and we can do the things we should be doing. No other company can do that."
Press wants to see longer-term planning and decisions made closer to the customer. He said he has been visiting dealers and getting out "in the real world," according to CNNMoney.com.
"You want to find out how you can build a better product? I'd go talk to a technician that's been fixing the problems that we've created," he said. "You want to talk about how you can generate better sales? I'd go and talk to the sales people that have been trying to sell cars and overcoming customer objections."
Another example of having strong backing from Cerberus is more money for development of advanced powertrains like hybrid engines and diesels. Chrysler recently formed a unit called Envi to develop electrically driven vehicles.
"We have been given the opportunity to earmark a ton of money for development of advance products," Press said. "I think that really shows the things that are really necessary to have a strong foundation for the future are being put in place."
Chrysler has a number of such vehicles "in the pipeline, just about ready to pop out," Press said. He added that Chrysler also has a leadership position in diesel engines, which he said are more effective than hybrids in some cases when it comes to cutting carbon emissions.
Press said the main overall difference between Toyota and other companies is the way Toyota makes decisions over a longer period of time, but revises the plan, looking at options and making sure everybody is aligned. That way, implementation is faster and easier.
"I think that we will be able to gain that same perspective here at Chrysler after we get things sort of squared away and take care of some of the short-term issues that are facing us," he said.
Chrysler is undergoing a restructuring after losing $1.5 billion in 2006, according to CNNMoney.com.
Press said he wants to "orient the face of the organization to the retail side and making sure the decisions we make are based on what's best for the customer and what's best for the dealers."
One thing Chrysler needs to do is get dealers the right mix of vehicles so there's more of a pull from customers rather than a push from the auto maker.
"We've got to build the cars customers want and give them to the dealers, and not give them cars customers don't want or that dealers don't order," Press said. "And that's something we need to get straightened out. We're going to work on that very hard. I think everybody in management realizes the need to get our stock straightened out and more reflective, in terms of a pipeline and inventory, of what's selling, where the demand is."