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Chrysler & Press: An Exec Who Can Change The Game

Thursday, 6 Sep 2007 | 11:00 AM ET
Jim Press
AP
Jim Press

In the auto world, it's hard to say one executive can turn around a company. But there are certain people who are "game-changers". The type of executive with a great track record who could steer a company in the right direction. Jim Press, the former president of Toyota North America is one of those executives. I say formerly with Toyota, because Press has just signed on to become Chrysler's new Vice Chairman and President.

This is a great move by Chrysler. Why?

Press has an uncanny knack for understanding what people want in a new car or truck. Take a look at the new Tundra and all of the consumer friendly features in that truck. Now, I'm not saying Press alone is responsible for those features. But as part of Toyota's management team, he played a role in steering that company toward it's incredible growth, thanks largely to it's customer friendly approach.

The other hallmark of Jim press' career at Toyota is his relationship with Toyota's dealers. They felt like he was working with them, not lording over them. It's the type of relationship Chrysler needs with it's dealers who have been frustrated, and often mad at the way they've been treated by headquarters over the last few years.

Putting Jim Press in charge of North American Sales, Global Marketing, and Product Strategy is a very smart move by new CEO Bob Nardelli. With Press going to work on the sales side, while former CEO Tom LaSorda concentrates on his expertise- manufacturing, Chrysler has a solid one-two combination. It doesn't mean Chrysler will turn things around right away, but it does give the company the type of foundation it will need to change the game.

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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