Sun, Sep 09, 2007 - Page 11 News List

New Chrysler CEO to keep brands, but may cut products

AP , DETROIT

Chrysler's new chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli said he planned to keep the automaker's three brands but could cut some products as he leads the company through a restructuring.

"Clearly Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep are all very, very valuable brands," Nardelli said on Friday after a speech to the Automotive Press Association. "I think we have to look very hard at some of the product within those brands."

In one of his first public appearances since becoming chairman last month, Nardelli would not say which vehicles might go. Among those struggling are the Dodge Magnum wagon, which saw sales drop 35 percent in the first eight months of this year, and the aging PT Cruiser, which saw a 25 percent decline.

"We have to make intelligent decisions about the products and the brands," said Nardelli, former CEO of Home Depot Inc. "We can't just have emotional attachments about some of the products and brands that are out there."

Chrysler's new owner, private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, has hired Nardelli and a handful of other new executives to turn around the automaker.

Nardelli said he was pleased with the vehicles in Chrysler's pipeline and will make investments to improve quality, a problem that has bedeviled the company.

The Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands all scored below average in this year's J.D. Power and Associates initial quality study.

"Those are the metrics by which consumers make their decisions," he said. "We're not going to fight those. We're going to embrace them."

Nardelli would not say what he hopes the company will look like in five years or put a number on the market share Chrysler is striving for. Chrysler currently controls about 13 percent of the US market and has little presence overseas. LaSorda has said the company wants to double its sales outside North America by 400,000 by 2012, and Nardelli said LaSorda was leading efforts to make alliances with foreign automakers.

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