TOLEDO, Ohio -- The walls of Mauro Pino's office at Chrysler Group's Toledo Assembly Complex here are vibrant -- bright orange and yellow.
Why? Pino beams and exclaims: "Energy! Everything was gray before. I don't like gray."
Energy. The word sums up what this 50-year-old Italian dynamo has brought to Toledo since he arrived in April for a prodigious task: Implement Fiat's World Class Manufacturing system at these two sprawling factories, which make three vehicles on a 312-acre site.
Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne personally chose Pino for the job, and the stakes are high. If Chrysler is to rebound and thrive in the new Fiat era, it must drastically improve the quality of the vehicles it builds here. Studies show the quality gap separating Chrysler and its rivals is huge.
Pino approaches his job with passion, and the types of gestures that help win over workers who must take pride in being part of the process of change. Gestures like showing up on a motorcycle to ride with union workers in a holiday charity rally, and spending hours on the factory floor to understand the problems and the people who work there.
"You can't keep him off that floor," says Dan Henneman, UAW Local 12 shop chairman at both Toledo plants. "My team leaders know him on a first-name basis."
The World Class Manufacturing system is Fiat's adaptation of the Toyota Production System. WCM, as it's called, is designed to root out waste, cut costs, reduce accidents and increase efficiency. Fiat is putting it in place in all Chrysler plants.
As manager of the two Toledo plants, Pino's mission is to improve the quality of the Dodge Nitro and the Jeep Liberty and Wrangler. In Consumer Reports' 2010 ratings, the Nitro and Liberty siblings finished next to last and last in the small-SUV segment. The Wrangler Unlimited was dead last in the mid-sized, two-row-SUV segment. All three vehicles were marked down for fit and finish and reliability.
Pino has much to do, and he must do it fast. "We are in the middle of a tempest," he says, describing the pace of change.
Built like a tight end, Pino is an imposing 6 feet 4, with broad shoulders, dark eyes and a bald head. His sonorous baritone carries over the din of the busy factory floor. He has the stage presence of an actor and frequently refers to himself in the third person.
"That is Mauro -- I have to be the coach of these guys," he says, with a noticeable accent, referring to his role in getting employees to buy into making cars differently.