I am among the alumni of the Iaccoca-led turnaround at Chrysler. Management experts, including those at Harvard Business School, who deconstructed that success story attribute part of it to luck. About the same time that Iacocca and his financial wizards such as Gerry Greenwald and Steve Miller got their systems revamped, the car market began its recovery. The K-car was cheap and sold like hot cakes with all that pent-up demand out there. The revolutionary Mini-Van, which had a very nice profit margin, also was a brisk seller.
Nevertheless we are still proud of our endurance and courage. Days we headed into work we never knew if that one would the one the security guards in the parking lot turned us away, "Place shut down." One of the public relations themes was Chrysler, which was the smallest of the BigThree, as the feisty underdog.
That old mood can't be recaptured, not now, not when there has been so much lackluster leadership by Nardelli and seemingly so little endurance and courage. When I was a contract employee at Home Depot during Nardelli's time there the place seemed to also be going downhill. I didn't have high hopes for my alma mater when Nardelli took charge. I was on the money.
The theme of the feisty underdog would also be a bad fit. Today, we're all underdogs and not all that feisty after almost two years of economic uncertainty. In my little business, which is holding up, new accounts are harder to get and take much longer to close. Just like a growing number of the Fortune 500 which won't issue earnings estimates, I am clueless about tomorrow.
And, luck may not be on Chrysler's side this time around. The pent-up demand might burst open but when, no one knows. When it does, buyers might play it safe and stick with a company which they know will be in business for decades. The U.S. government can guarantee this and that regarding Chrysler cars. But that doesn't mean that the $4.98 part that's needed will be stocked by too many auto suppliers.
This is sad. It didn't have to happen. The company Iacocca et al. turned around could have stayed turned around.