Tom LaSorda, the new COO of the Chrysler group, has what the company needs: manufacturing acumen.
LaSorda, 49, must launch nine new or redesigned vehicles this year, which is no small feat for a company with chronic quality problems.
But in less than four years at Chrysler, LaSorda cut warranty costs significantly and crafted innovative manufacturing changes in engine and assembly plants.
A low-key, thoughtful executive, LaSorda will be a dramatic change from his flamboyant predecessor, Wolfgang Bernhard, who is leaving to lead the Mercedes car group.
LaSorda's promotion to the No. 2 job at Chrysler means that his huge career gamble paid off: He left a top manufacturing job at General Motors four years ago to join Chrysler.
LaSorda has delivered impressive results to CEO Dieter Zetsche. For example, the company credits LaSorda with a 30 percent drop in per-vehicle warranty costs in the two-yearperiod ending December 2003.
In the 2003 Harbour Report, Chrysler was the most improved automaker in the survey with an 8.3 percent gain in overall productivity, which includes stamping, engine production and vehicle assembly.
Some of the credit goes to LaSorda's "bottleneck busters," teams of manufacturing specialists, engineers, plant management and assembly line workers empowered to fix problems in Chrysler's North American plants.