Wolfgang Bernhard arrived at the Chrysler group in November 2000 as COO with orders from DaimlerChrysler headquarters in Stuttgart to cut costs and return the U.S. automaker to profits.
As Chrysler's three-year restructuring program enters its 15th month, the company already is reaping some of the fruits of that cost cutting. It recorded an operating profit of $111 million - before restructuring costs of $274 million - in the first quarter.
The 41-year-old Bernhard sees other evidence that the plan is working. Last year, productivity improved by an average 6 percent in most plants, he said, while warranty costs over the past six months are down 19 percent from last year.
But the rigorous search for higher quality and lower costs has caused some pain. Bernhard admits that the Chrysler group's relationship with some suppliers has suffered, but said, "We are comfortable with a certain degree of uneasiness in the system because it's not so easy for us either."
Bernhard met in late April with Editor Edward Lapham and Staff Reporter Diana T. Kurylko at Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.