New Chrysler: Wolfgang Bernhard Reportedly to Return

By Michelle Krebs July 30, 2007

Wolfgang_bernhard_216 As many predicted, Wolfgang Bernhard reportedly will become chairman of the board of the New Chrysler when the upcoming owner, Cerberus Capital Management LP, takes over, possibly by this Friday.

Few know Chrysler better. Cerberus hired Bernhard, who left Chrysler for Volkswagen in a political dispute and left VW for the same reason, as an adviser when it was negotiating to buy Chrysler.

Bernhard had been Chrysler’s COO under now Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche. Bernhard, known as the bad cop and the cost-slasher, played the behind-the-scenes role while Zetsche was the front man during Chrysler’s last turnaround, which included the introduction of the phenomenally successful Chrysler 300. But the turnaround was short-lived.

Cerberus still insists LaSorda remains CEO. LaSorda worked for Bernhard Tom_lasorda_191 before, and LaSorda claims they are friends. Cerberus and LaSorda have insisted since the Cerberus purchase was announced in May that Bernhard would not play a key role at Chrysler, but that LaSorda would tap into his expertise.

Since then, however, Bernhard has set up an office on Chrysler’s executive floor, has participated in strategy meetings with Chrysler management and has been house-shopping in Detroit.

So much for insistence. Many have bet all along LaSorda won’t be long at the helm of Chrysler.

Dieter_zetsche_190 As for Zetsche, he bid the Chrysler troops auf Wiedersehen last week.

In an email to Daimler and Chrysler employees, obtained by the Detroit Free Press, Zetsche and LaSorda thanked workers for their service and urged them to continue their relationship with Mercedes on future joint projects. "We'll soon embark on new and promising futures as two separate companies," the email said.

Among the joint programs outlined in the email are development of common electrical components, vehicle architectures for unibody SUVs and powertrain technologies, including diesel, hybrid and fuel cells.

Zetsche said the decision to sell Chrysler was personally difficult for him, having spent five years at Chrysler.

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