What if Roger Penske *Had* Run Chrysler?


    Roger Penske adds the Smart car to his $17B empire – Oct. 5, 2007

    Good article here about businessman Roger Penske. I didn't realize that he once passed up the chance to succeed Iaccoca at Chrysler.

    Back in 1992, Chrysler's Lee Iacocca asked Penske to succeed him as CEO, but Penske declined because he wanted to run his own businesses. Now Penske Corp. is worth more than several Chryslers.

    I wonder how things might have turned out differently at Chrysler if he had taken that job?

    Some Lean related tidbits and items of interest:

    Penske is leading the effort to sell the tiny “Smart Car” here in the U.S. and he spent some gemba-type time on the road, ala the Toyota executives who drove minvans across the U.S. and Canada:

    He drove a Smart the 200 miles between Laredo and Victoria, Texas, last summer.

    “I just wanted to see what it is like on the highway going 75,” he says. “I wasn't tired, I wasn't fighting a car that was moving all over the highway. At 65 to 75, it is very drivable.”

    I still don't think I'd want to be driving around in one of those in any traffic!

    Every car for the U.S. market is going to be built exactly to order:

    “…Penske was able to go to the first 1,000 reservation owners, find out exactly what features they wanted, and then place a detailed order. “It is entirely different from having John Doe waiting on the showroom floor for the customer to walk in,” Penske says. “Those days are over.” If all dealers did business that way, it would eliminate inventories and big discounts on orphan cars.

    Penske is also making sure headquarters isn't a disconnected huge glass tower:

    In a characteristic Penske move, he located Smart's corporate headquarters in the back of its Detroit dealership. That way, he says, everybody who works for Smart will have to walk in through a sales floor and not into a glass building.

    “That will keep people in the game,” he says.

    Sort of like Gary Convis (formerly of Toyota) or any other top leader putting their office in the middle of the shop floor. It forces you to walk the the gemba. Smart.

    I still don't want to drive one of those tiny mobiles though!! And that coming from a guy who drives a Prius from time to time.

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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