When Bob Nardelli introduced himself to Chrysler employees as the new CEO on Aug. 6, 2007, in Auburn Hills, he was a man with plenty to prove.
Employees, who milled around the lawn talking worriedly in small groups, had been expecting product whiz Wolfgang Bernhard to lead the desperate company to prosperity after the DaimlerChrysler marriage. Instead they got a guy whose main claim to fame was a whopping $210 million golden parachute from Home Depot.
Some wondered if the appointment of the former General Electric executive meant the new owner, private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, had come to strip Chrysler's assets.
I wouldn't be recalling these events had Nardelli not attempted to rewrite history last week in a LinkedIn blog titled "What I Learned Leading a Company Like Chrysler Through Bankruptcy -- and Revitalization."
Using the editorial "we," Nardelli gives himself credit for having the foresight to see signs of the coming economic meltdown early and streamlining Chrysler's operations so it "would survive at 10 million unit SAR of sales."
Nardelli's use of the acronym SAR for SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate) shows he retains his tin ear for the industry's lingo.
Astonishingly, he takes credit for redeveloping "the heart of the product line ... creating the new Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger," vehicles that were introduced two years before he arrived.
Former Chrysler PR head Jason Vines, in his 2014 book What Did Jesus Drive?, wrote that Nardelli was jealous when Cerberus hired ex-Toyota retail-marketing whiz Jim Press, who had rapport with dealers.
Decades of mismanagement brought Chrysler to its knees. It wasn't Bob Nardelli's fault. But history will view him as Exhibit A in a long list of prominent outsiders who parachute in, thinking they can show the auto industry how things should be done but wind up learning the hard way that this business is way harder than they thought.