Chrysler has picked Bob Nardelli, the man that nearly drove Home Depot into the ground and, thereby, gave Lowes the opening it needed to become the biggest home retail store in the country, as its new boss. GE took one look at the man they had groomed to be the successor the legendary Jack Welch, and picked someone else.

Should have been a lesson in there, but there wasn’t for Home Depot. They selected him to be their boss. He tanked their earnings, but it cost the shareholders almost a quarter billion to get rid of his incompetent derriere.

But, this is America.

Just because you’ve got two strikes against you, it doesn’t mean you can’t hit a home run.
But you may have to change your stance. Or at least try, for just a moment, to think about what ball is being thrown, understand the psyche of the pitcher and read the infield.

But that doesn’t sound like what Nardelli has in mind.

There is currently no reason to believe that Nardelli understands that he is in the game, much less that he is in the big leagues. GE put him on waivers, and Home Depot picked him up, and eventually sent him down because his ERA – as in corporate earnings average – tanked.
But he has now gotten a third shot.

Apparently, if you’re dumb enough to buy Chrysler, you’re dumb enough to hire Nardelli.
The betting is, based on his track record, that Nardelli will come into Chrysler and gut it, cut out everything that costs money, and raise the per share just long enough for Cerberus to find a greater sucker, and then sell out just before the entire corpse hits the ground.

If that’s the theory, it won’t work.

Nobody believed Chrysler has a better than even chance of staying alive for five more years.
And that was before they hired Nardelli.

The odds are now 4 to 1 against, in three.

Moreover, Nardelli is such an a—hole that many would love to see him fail, even if it means the company goes down with him.

That’s the idea of a leader, apparently, at Cerberus. 

Real leaders inspire trust as much as they inspire fear. Just ask George Patton. Nardelli only inspires terror. 

Nonetheless, we all do have an interest in Chrysler’s survival.

And I’m one of the ones, because my personal budget depends on the overall economy and when Nardelli tanks Chrysler, it’s going to hurt all of us.

First, of course, there’s the humanitarian element. It’s going to hurt a lot of people if Chrysler goes under. It’s going to trigger a recession, and it is going to trigger a loss of morale in the entire American auto industry, which will not help either Ford or GM.

But, mostly, it would trigger a loss of pride in America.

Chrysler is America’s car company.

Lee Iacocca said so. 

It’s the car company that said it was your car company, proved it by giving you the product you wanted, and paid off the loans early.

But neither John Snow nor Bobby Nardelli is Lee Iacocca.

So, I’ve decided to tell him what he ought to do.

I don’t expect him to do what I suggest.

But my conscience will be clear. (And, yes, I am sending this to his office by snail mail, too.)
I’m going to share with Mr. Nardelli the Bible.

Chrysler goes down in three unless Nardelli reads this book, memorizes this book, and believes this book.

The book is “Minding the Store.” It was written by Stanley Marcus. He was the son of the founder of Neiman Marcus, the Texas based luxury department store.

He explains in his book how you sell cars.

He doesn’t do it by describing selling cars. He does it by describing how you sell dresses.
Nardelli is, by all assessments, way too stupid to get the idea, but at least I won’t feel responsible when the idiots that bought the company crash it.

It will be Nardelli’s fault,

Again, So, Bob:
Here goes: The only thing you really have, in any successful business, is your customers. You must never lose one. There is nothing more important that a customer. A customer is gold in your pocket. It is a customer you do not have to go out and find.

A customer is god. You do not reject a customer. You serve a customer.

In Mr. Marcus’s book, he tells two stories, both of which will be alien to the thinking of Nardelli. His inability to comprehend them is why Cerberus’s investment will be the biggest waste of money in American financial history.

This will not, by the way, be entirely Nardelli’s fault. When you put a man with limits in charge of a company, you should know his limits. The folks at Cerberus knew his limits and then selected him. They deserve exactly what they’re going to get, which is the loss of their entire investment. 

That they will be taking down a lot of worthy people in the process is a matter which will need to be addressed later. (I, for one, do not want to pick up the pieces as a taxpayer for the moronic decisions made by these speculators. I would much rather see John Snow and Bob Nardelli in the poorhouse. But, that’s for another day.)

Anyway, it turns out it’s all about customer service, that which has been the strength of Lexus and will be the weakness of Chrysler if it decides, as apparently it has, to shed dealers.

Here’s how customer service works:

A lady came into the Dallas Neiman-Marcus store and bought a very expensive lace dress. A few weeks later, she came back to complain that it had not held up. Mr. Marcus waited upon her and instantly recognized that she had used it in ways for which it was not intended. The woman had not understood the quality or delicacy of that which she had bought. As he was about to say so, his father, founder of the store swooped in, removed the dress from the lady’s arms and directed her to pick out any dress in the store as a replacement, courtesy of the store.

Later, son challenged father, and father explained that it was a small loss, that degrading her would have destroyed her as a customer forever, and that nothing was more important than a customer.

Her husband had recently hit oil. She was not sophisticated, but she became so. She shopped at only one store for the rest of her life: Neiman Marcus. The dress had cost $100. Over her lifetime, she spent $1 million at the store.

A man came into the store seeking to buy a present for his lawyer. He wanted a crystal decanter for bourbon. But he wanted it to hold a case, not a bottle, of bourbon. He had a couple of fellas with him, each carrying satchels. 

Mr. Marcus was nonplussed. Then he spotted a display model of a decanter from a particularly expensive brand of crystal, sitting on top of a display counter. He had it pulled down, directed a subordinate to go out and buy a bottle of bourbon, had the bottle emptied and then used to fill the decanter to exactly the volume of a full case. A full case fit perfectly.

The decanter was emptied, wrapped and priced.

The gentleman directed the subordinates with the satchels to count out the money.

They did. In silver dollars.

There is not a car buyer in America that would not like that level of service from his or her car dealer, nor is there soul in America that will be satisfied with less.

Tolerate less. Yes, we all have been for years.

But be satisfied with less.

No.

Bob Nardelli is the wrong man in the wrong place in the wrong time.

He couldn’t care less about the company, the product or the consumer.

He will drive the company into the ground, sooner rather than later.

It will serve Cerberus right.

But, at least, I won’t feel guilty.

I just told him what he ought to do.

He ought to start taking care of his customers.

He can’t do that by declaring his dealers to be his enemies.

He is a fool.

And I am hoping he will prove me wrong.

But I don’t believe he will.

What do you think?
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