I heard a story from inside the new Chrysler LLC that gave me pause. And hope. Call it the "Parable of the Leaky Sidelight."
It seems that one of Chrysler's newer products had been getting a bad rep because of windows that leak. The matter came to the attention of CEO Bob Nardelli, who wanted to find out for himself.
So Nardelli took a test drive and -- lo and behold -- the skies opened, and the rains fell upon the earth.
And the car leaked.
But instead of just sending a memo to some engineer or another, Nardelli took part in an engineering conference call discussing the issue. His point: "What are you going to do to fix the problem now?"
When Nardelli took the Chrysler job, many of us didn't know what to expect. He had spent most of his career at General Electric before moving on to Home Depot, where critics say he did more harm than good.
At the Aug. 6 press conference when he was introduced as Chrysler CEO, Nardelli spoke about his love for automobiles. That made some folks shudder, fearing "The Outsider" thought of himself as a car guy. They remembered how another high-level exec from a distant industry who said he liked cars screwed up General Motors.
In Auburn Hills, the real car guys hoped that Nardelli would be the big-picture guy -- an administrator who would leave the building of vehicles to Tom LaSorda and the selling of them to Jim Press.
No such luck. Nardelli has rolled up his sleeves and put his hands into the muck.
He may not be a car guy, but Nardelli knows full well that people who buy cars won't tolerate leaky sidelights.
Neither will he.
For folks at Chrysler, that should give them hope. And pause.