For months, Feb. 26 loomed as the big date in the Chrysler group's future. Last week's announcement put the recovery plan on the table. The troubled U.S. arm of DaimlerChrysler now can look well into the future.
The vision: Chrysler will cut 26,000 jobs and try to get big cost reductions from suppliers, as had been announced. It will share platforms with Mitsubishi and might share powertrains with Mercedes. It will continue to lose money this year, but, if all goes as planned, Chrysler will make $2 billion in 2003.
It is up to Dieter Zetsche to make it happen. After a few months on the job, the Chrysler CEO has earned respect. But he faces a monumental task in motivating his people to help with the recovery - without their commitment, it won't happen.
If Chrysler is to come back, Zetsche needs more than vision. He must restore trust in the organization and mend the legacy of broken promises that followed the 'merger of equals.'
Somehow, he must create an open, participatory culture devoid of secrets. He must make all Chrysler workers, dealers and suppliers believe that this company is theirs to save.
For their part, Chrysler employees, dealers and suppliers can't afford to look back. Lamenting what's past - no matter how tempting that might be - won't move them forward.
The recovery plan is built on some very big ifs. Chrysler will fall short of its short-term goals if its U.S. market share slips or if U.S. auto sales fall below 16 million. If Chrysler doesn't execute its platform-sharing plan with Mitsubishi, the longer-term gains won't happen, either.
But the biggest if is the people equation. If Zetsche can succeed in getting his people to look beyond the past and share his sense of mission, the company long known as the Crisis Corp. just might pull off another great comeback.