The Blue-Collar CEO

Newsweek: The Blue-Collar CEO

This article ushers in Tom LaSorda as Chrysler’s new CEO. LaSorda is the first child of labor leaders to become CEO of a car company – and perhaps even more importantly, he’s a manufacturing guy!

The article talks briefly about his Lean Manufacturing background at GM prior to arriving at Chrysler and the moves he has been able to make since being at Chrysler by working closely with the UAW.

Most notably he negotiated the contract for the Toledo Jeep plant to allow outside suppliers to run major parts of the factory, such as the paint shop and to establish an auto-parts industrial park nearby to bring in new jobs. Whether or not plant arrangements such as this represent the future of manufacturing (there was a similar plan in Windsor Ontario that fell through…), LaSorda has established a reputation of balancing relationships with employees and the needs of the business for both the short and long term.

Last week the UAW voted to consider giving Chrysler the same health-care concessions it recently granted GM—even though Chrysler is in much better shape. “You don’t do innovative things,” says a UAW spokesman, “unless you have a good working relationship.”

The article also addresses LaSorda’s desire to steer Chrysler out of the Big Three and towards Honda, Nissan and Toyota in terms of efficiency and profit.

Despite this very narrow view of lean presented by the article, having a manufacturing guy who understands the value of relationships and how to improve processes in charge very closely approaches Toyota’s approach to leadership. I can’t wait to see if he’s able to break Chrysler out of the Big Three box!

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Luke Van Dongen

Luke, an auto industry engineering veteran, blogged here from 2005 to 2006.

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