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Chrysler and New CEO Bob Nardelli: Why It Just Might Work

Monday, 6 Aug 2007 | 9:07 AM ET
Bob Nardelli
AP
Bob Nardelli

Talk about moving fast. Just two days after taking ownership of Chrysler, Cerberus Capital has put a new man in charge of the struggling automaker. And it's a bold move picking an auto industry outsider. Bob Nardelli steps in as Chrysler's chairman and CEO in a move that many will question.Yet, I think this move could work for a couple reasons.

But here's why will people question the move. Nardelli is an auto industry outsider and takes a position many thought would be occupied by Wolfgang Bernhard, the former Chrysler COO who helped Cerberus buy the automaker. Picking Nardelli over Bernhard might puzzle some. But if Cerberus wasn't ready to tap Bernhard as Chairman after working with him the last 5 months, that's a pretty good indication Cerberus management was not comfortable with the German auto executive.

So why do I think Nardelli might be the right choice to run Chrysler? First, his track record running companies and business' is impressive. Forget about the controversy surrounding Nardelli's pay package and departure from Home Depot , and look at the company's improved operations during his tenure. In addition, his track record before that at GE shows Nardelli knows how to lead. (GE is the parent company of CNBC.)

Second, Nardelli's "outsider" status means he will bring a fresh approach to running Chrysler. Much as Alan Mulally'soutsider status is helping him rebuild Ford , Nardelli will go to Detroit with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. That approach along with the mandate from Cerberus to quickly turn around Chrysler will be a powerful combination.

Finally, Nardelli takes over Chrysler with something to prove. He left Home Depot with critics bashing his pay package. Overlooked by many was the job he did improving Home Depot. I don't know Nardelli personally, but my gut says he wants to turn around a company to show his critics they are wrong. What better way to stick it in the face of the naysayers than to save an American auto icon.

Nardelli as Chrysler CEO
Home Depot's former CEO joins Chrysler, with George Magliano Global Insight director of automotive research; CNBC's Phil Lebeau & Mark Haines

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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