Tom LaSorda has left Chrysler and more senior managers are ready to go, too. The question is, who will be left once the company goes through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy process?
LaSorda, the Windsor-born son of a union leader, surely endured the worst 2.5 years of his life up to his departure this week. He was miscast as salesman-in-chief, peddling Chrysler around the world to any car company that would listen. But like the good soldier he's always been, he persevered.
A soft-spoken manufacturing expert, LaSorda rose to become Chrysler CEO under the German owners, Daimler AG. Then when Cerberus Capital Management took over, he took a demotion to vice-chairman and president. Again, the good soldier.
The last 2.5 years must have been horrible for him. According to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court and reported in Automotive News, LaSorda spent most of his time looking for a partner or a buyer for Chrysler.
Before Fiat S.p.A. said yes - sort of -- LaSorda had detailed discussions with Nissan-Renault and General Motors. He also looked for various tie-ups with Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG, India's Tata Motors (Jaguar and Land Rover's owners), South Korea's Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, Canada's Magna International Inc., and even Russian auto maker GAZ.
No one was interested, other than Fiat. Honda would not even agree to a meeting between its president and LaSorda, says Automotive News.
So any suggestion that Cerberus was committed to rebuilding Chrysler rings false. Apparently the Cerberus plan was to buy a controlling (80.1 per cent stake) in Chrysler, dress the company up as best it could, then find a buyer or partner to sweep in and take over - hopefully at a profit for the leveraged buyout folks at Cerberus. This is the model for leveraged buyouts. Clearly, Cerberus did NOT want to own and run a car company.
LaSorda seems an odd choice as top salesman. Officially, he had been in charge of manufacturing, procurement and supply, employee relations, global business development and alliances since August 2007.
But most of his time was spent in "global business development." As I read it, that means he was intimately involved in unwinding Cerberus from Chrysler and he went to work on this almost from day one.
If there are any tears for LaSorda, they are of the crocodile variety. He's been well compensated.
That said, LaSorda was an accomplished "plant guy" and his skills and successes there should not be overlooked. He was the architect of Chrysler's Toledo Supplier Park in Ohio. It integrated suppliers in a close relationship with Chrysler to produce the Jeep Wrangler.
Before Chrysler, he was a top manufacturing executive at GM, including a stint at president of Opel's Eisenach plant in eastern Germany. He was well respected for his manufacturing expertise.
Who is next to go at Chrysler? Bob Nardelli, the Chrysler chairman and CEO and former chief hardware salesman at Home Depot. He has said he will step down after Chrysler completes its time in Chapter 11. If Fiat comes in and essentially takes over, Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne is expected to become chief executive of the new Chrysler.
Marchionne, by the way, is a Canadian and a University of Windsor graduate. As far as the nationality of the top executive is concerned, Chrysler then will have come full circle.