As Thomas LaSorda, a native of Windsor, Ont., Canada, takes the helm this month as CEO ofGroup, his ride should prove much smoother than the last North American to hold the post.
That was Jim Holden, whose career fell into a tailspin in 2000 when a $512 million third-quarter loss led to his unceremonious firing Nov. 12, upon landing in Stuttgart to present a 3-year business plan.
Holden was replaced by Dieter Zetsche, who was dispatched from Germany to restructure the ailing.
LaSorda, in his first press conference since news of his appointment, recognizes the advantages of reporting to a well-known and likeminded boss in Stuttgart.
As part of Zetsche's turnaround team, LaSorda was charged with cutting manufacturing costs while improving overall efficiency.
Conversely, Holden reported to Chairman Juergen Schrempp, who was in the middle of a media maelstrom following what was described as a public admission that it was Schrempp's plan, all along, to take over the former Chrysler Corp. and reduce it to a business unit.
Zetsche is expected to have a hands-on leadership style and spend more time in the U.S. A Schrempp sighting was rare in Detroit during his tenure.
The business plan Holden never got to present called for a paring of the 5-year product planning budget to about $35 billion from $49 billion, for a company with about $70 billion in revenue. Zetsche went further, cutting it to $32 billion.
LaSorda vows to maintain similar discipline and keep the product budget in the $28 billion to $30 billion range. “I don't want to go back to the old days when we spent too much,” LaSorda says. “We went through a lot of pain.”
LaSorda says he will build on the foundation Zetsche established over the past five years and the momentum created by hot products.
His job will be to oversee the launch of at least 10 new products in 2006, making it the most ambitious single-year rollout to date.