NEWS ANALYSIS

Chrysler's exec trio: Reports of friction mostly fiction

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli, center, wraps his arms around co-presidents Tom LaSorda, left, and Jim Press at the Detroit auto show in January.
NEW YORK — Reports of executive-suite incompatibility be damned; Chrysler LLC's brain trust is getting along just fine, thank you.

At least that's the message CEO Bob Nardelli and co-presidents Tom LaSorda and Jim Press were at pains to deliver during a series of media roundtables at the New York auto show — just a stone's throw from the Park Avenue headquarters of Cerberus Capital Management LP, Chrysler's owner.

Nardelli acknowledged tensions but said that's only natural when three talented executives work together. "We will challenge each other, and that's probably a little uncomfortable," Nardelli said. "Jim will push. Tom will push. I will push.

Press said the three are "trying to solve problems in a constructive way. Disagreement is healthy."

Reports of friction between Nardelli and Press have been most persistent. Nardelli's ascent to the top Chrysler job last summer shocked the industry. Much initial media coverage centered on the controversy over his $210 million severance package from Home Depot.

Meanwhile, Press was widely hailed as a savior when he arrived from Toyota. Some observers wondered aloud: Why isn't the guy who built Toyota into a North American powerhouse running the show?

But Press took the job knowing Nardelli would be his boss. And LaSorda stuck around, even though another guy took the CEO job that was once his.

Nobody knows what incentives the three will be paid if Chrysler becomes profitable.

But if the executives can't make their partnership work, there's much more to be lost than just a few fat paychecks. 

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@autonews.com

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