Everybody says product is king, but the Chrysler group has proved it.
The company's hip and successful vehicle lineup, and the pipeline of new vehicles for the rest of the decade, has vaulted Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche to the chairmanship of DaimlerChrysler AG.
Automotive News today lays out the future-product plan at Chrysler, everything from a Mustang-fighter for Dodge to car-based Jeeps.
Drafting in Zetsche's wake are the executives who led development and manufacturing of the products that have made Zetsche's Chrysler a success.
Out the door at DaimlerChrysler is CEO Juergen Schrempp, the glib global industrialist who assembled a big holding company but couldn't make it hum.
Schrempp often stumbled but always survived. Now the 60-year-old architect of the "merger of equals" is leaving by year end, saying it is "the right time."
Sources say his hand-picked man running the Mercedes-Benz car unit, Eckhard Cordes, is going, too.
DaimlerChrysler won't announce a successor at Mercedes-Benz right away. For now, Zetsche, the cordial engineer who was dispatched to a dispirited Chrysler five years ago, will run both the group and Mercedes.
Zetsche will leave a Chrysler that is a stunning exception to the malaise that has ravaged its larger Big 3 competitors. Chrysler is increasing profits, sales and market share.
And it's all about product.
The new management team will implement the plan established by Zetsche and his former No. 2, Wolfgang Bernhard.
That new team is North American.
CEO-designate Tom LaSorda, 51, is the soft-spoken manufacturing boss who, as COO, has improved relations with suppliers while raising quality and cutting costs. He will be replaced as COO by another congenial executive, product
Schrempp: "The right time"
LaSorda and Ridenour have a tough act to follow.
Zetsche is a risk taker. While General Motors and Ford Motor Co. touted front-wheel drive and V-6 engines for most of their big sedans over the years, Zetsche endorsed rear drive and the Hemi V-8.
The result? A huge success for the Chrysler 300 car and Dodge Magnum wagon.