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Chrysler's All Star Lineup: Will It Win The Game?

Phil Murtaugh
Phil Murtaugh

Like George Steinbrenner stocking his New York Yankees with All-stars, Cerberus Capital is loading Chrysler with big-time execs. The latest addition is Phil Murtaugh, who will run Chrysler's operation and expansion in China and India. In the last ten years, Murtaugh has carved out a reputation as the American who knows China and how to grow auto sales in that country. Under his guidance from 2000 to 2005, GM sales in China soared.

When I spent time with him in Shanghai in 2003, I asked him why GM brought the Buick brand into China? He told me, "we knew the Chinese would like the Buick styling." He was right. In fact, Buick has become a huge hit in China. Chrysler wants to tap that expertise and experience in growing the Chrysler and Dodge brands in the world's second largest auto market.

Murtaugh joins former Toyotahigh flyer Jim Pressand former Home Depot Chairman Bob Nardelli in Chrysler's all-star executive line-up. And I fully expect that line-up will expand in the months to come.

Will this "all-star" approach fix Chrysler? It's too early to tell. I wonder if an influx of aggressive, and successful executives can come together and form the cohesion needed so Chrysler can get back on a roll.

But I am also impressed with the speed and urgency at which Cerberus is re-making Chrysler. The company needs to repair badly damaged relations with dealers? So it brings in Jim Press. The automaker wants to get on the map in China and India? It hires the top guy in that region.

Like Steinbrenner with the Yankees, not every all-star signing is likely to work. But give Cerberus credit for stepping up to the plate.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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