Chrysler dealers might want to reach for the Rolaids before reading this, but I think Renault/Nissan made a shrewd move in latching on to Jim Press.
Press is an adviser to the company, working with dealers. If nothing else, that means that he is officially no longer radioactive after his disastrous stint at Chrysler.
Press earned the undying enmity of some Chrysler dealers -- we're talking extreme vitriol -- when the company did its mass-rejection of dealers last year.
Press claims that he argued against the hasty, ill-considered move. Even without knowing exactly what debate took place in the Auburn Hills executive suite, I'm not convinced that Press deserved the level of blame that he got from dealers.
The funny thing is that Toyota dealers still respect the guy who led them to enormous success in the United States.
•First, Press probably wasn't as bad as he looked in a failing company with no cash and weak brands. And he probably wasn't quite as brilliant as he looked in a fantastically successful, cash-rich company with extremely strong brands.
•Second, although Toyota's latter-day strength no doubt inflated Press' aura of infallibility, he did play a big role in building that strength. Press spent decades nurturing Toyota's dealer organization and selling cars. He probably hasn't forgotten how to do those things.