Bernhard to Become New Chrysler Chairman

by : Evander Klum



Reports say Former Chrysler executive Wolfgang Bernhard is set to become the chairman of the new Chrysler, once Cerberus Capital Management finalizes its acquisition of the automaker from DaimlerChrysler.

Reports also say Thomas W. LaSorda is still Chrysler's chief executive, his position since the beginning of 2006. But Cerberus spokesman Peter Duda said the company has no such plans as of the moment for Mr. Bernhard or Mr. LaSorda.

Cerberus officials, including John W. Snow, its chairman, have expressed their support to Mr. LaSorda, son and grandson of Canadian labor officials.

As early as next week, Chrysler is anticipated to name the members of two boards: one for the car company; another for a holding company that is aimed to be formed when the acquisition is completed.

Manager magazine of Germany first reported Mr. Bernhard's momentary "coming back" to Chrysler.

It is not anymore a surprise that the ex-Chrysler executive is returning. This is because he acted as an adviser to Cerberus in the talks between the private-equity firm and Daimler.

Recognized for his manufacturing wit and determinative management approach, Mr. Bernhard served as chief operating officer at Chrysler beginning 2000 to 2004. He acted as the next in rank to executive Dieter Zetsche, then Chrysler's chief executive, who now works at Daimler.

The involvement of Mr. Bernhard in the Cerberus negotiations is thought to have made an impact in convincing Ron Gettelfinger, the president of the United Automobile Workers union, to support the acquisition.

Mr. Bernhard has had an office at Chrysler, but executives there claim that he has not been present on a regular basis.

In his first task at Chrysler, Mr. Bernhard became an endorser of lean manufacturing as well as powerful automobiles. Specifically, he pushed Chrysler to develop the 300C, a gallant sedan that borrowed foundations from Mercedes.

But he may be best known in automotive circles for blasting on stage at the 2003 Detroit auto show astride a thundering, gleaming silver concept motorcycle, which is powered by the same V-10 engine that is used on the Dodge Viper.

In the spring of 2004, Mr. Bernhard bid farewell to Chrysler to be the head of Mercedes-Benz, but he had a dispute with DaimlerChrysler executives who believed his efforts to reduce costs were too hostile.

In 2005, Mr. Bernhard became chairman of the Volkswagen brand, but left as part of a restructuring move earlier this year.

His return to Chrysler comes along with Cerberus's banks not being unable to raise the money needed for the acquisition of the Chrysler Group. Nevertheless, officials at the car maker's parent company said on Wednesday the deal is still on.

Eagle was a brand of the Chrysler Corporation following the purchase of American Motors Corporation (AMC). The brand is best known for its Talon sports car and .