When Chrysler Corp. first attempted the platform-team approach to develop its LH sedans in 1989, most of the team members chosen were highly skeptical.
But not G. Glenn Gardner.
Gardner was picked to lead the team because of his intimate knowledge of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Chrysler's Japanese automotive partner.
Gardner, a longtime Chrysler engineer and manager who had worked on the original Chrysler minivan and Dodge Dakota, spent part of the 1980s studying elsewhere. In 1985, he became chairman of Diamond-Star Motors Corp., a joint production venture created by Chrysler and Mitsubishi in Normal, Ill.
It was supposed to be largely a job of guardianship - looking after Chrysler's 50 percent stake in the greenfield site. But Gardner pulled something extra out of the assignment, learning all about Mitsubishi's methods of project management and the Japanese industry's approach to empowering teams to make decisions.
'It was a chance to learn from the Japanese at a time when we weren't doing very well against them,' Gardner told Automotive News in 1992.
Gardner had spent 27 years with Chrysler in various design engineer and management posts. But it was his four-year experience at Diamond-Star that made him the logical choice to head Chrysler's breakthrough LH platform team.
Gardner threw out the hierarchical structure that had long governed Chrysler's vehicle development. He replaced it with a decentralized, autonomous platform team. Under his direction, designers and engineers worked in concert with the manufacturing and financial ends from design to launch, simultaneously creating the platform and tooling the factory to build the cars.
Diamond-Star's lessons in meticulous planning and consensus-building paid off. The LH cars - Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Intrepid and Eagle Vision - were developed in the world-class time of 39 months for a $1.6 billion investment.
After the LH launch, Gardner spent two years managing the Liberty project, an initiative to develop advanced vehicle engineering and manufacturing processes for future product programs. He retired from Chrysler at the end of 1994.