DETROIT - The Chrysler group is losing one of the key engineers of its turnaround plan.
Richard Schaum, a 37-year Chrysler veteran, will retire March 31 as executive vice president of product development and general manager of passenger car operations.
Schaum, 56, joined Chrysler in 1966 as a co-op student and took the top engineering post in Sept. 2000.
He was succeeded effective Saturday, Feb. 1, by Eric Ridenour, 44, vice president for the premium-vehicle product team, which is developing the LX rear-drive cars.
Ridenour joined Chrysler in May 1986 as a program analyst. He was not available for comment last week.
His job will be filled by Craig Love, 54, who retains his responsibility
as head of activity vehicles and gets the new title of vice president, activity and premium vehicle product team. Schaum, a soft-spoken man with a subtle sense of humor that flares up unexpectedly, departs as the Chrysler group is emerging from the red with a pipeline full of new products.
“We have totally restructured the company from a product point of view,” Schaum said. “It’s the perfect time to depart.”
Schaum was one of 30 Chrysler executives who were offered three-year contracts in the November 1998 deal that created DaimlerChrysler. But in November 2000, newly appointed group CEO Dieter Zetsche and DaimlerChrysler CEO Juergen Schrempp asked Schaum to be a member of the turnaround team at Chrysler.
Schaum said he had agreed to stay another two years, until this year.
Schaum said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll stay retired or go to work again, perhaps for another automotive company.
For now, his major goal is “to get more of a balance in my life,” Schaum said.
He considers some of his proudest accomplishments to be “the processes that you leave which you have institutionalized — disciplined pro- cesses that get results.”
Schaum said the integration of product development with Mitsubishi in the medium- and small-car range also is proceeding well.
“The projects are on track,” he said. “Our innovative spirit is alive and well and is growing.”