Immediately following the sale of Chrysler to Cerberus, people began speculating on what role former Chrysler exec Wolfgang Bernhard would take up in the newly minted Chrysler Corp. Even we jumped on the bandwagon and suggested Bernhard, who had been hired on by Cerberus to advise the sale, would be a likely replacement for Tom LaSorda if the automaker's current CEO couldn't turn around the company's fortune. The Wall Street Journal is reporting, however, that Bernhard will act as a high-level advisor and report directly to Cerberus founder Stephen Feinberg.

The interesting thing is that Bernhard has been present at nearly every meeting since the acquisition was announced. He currently has an office on the executive floor of Chrysler's Auburn Hills headquarters and has been seen making the rounds, even stopping by the design studio to point out what he likes and dislikes in future designs.

Cerberus makes it clear, however, that Bernhard is not part of the Chrysler executive team, which begs the question, why is he there? It seems to us that Bernhard's considerable talent in having an eye for good product and dealing with the unions will be extremely valuable to LaSorda and his team while they attempt to bring Chrysler back to profitability. At the same time, Bernhard's role also comes off as a strategy by Cerberus to keep the Chrysler execs, specifically LaSorda, focused in their task. Should they fail, Bernhard won't have to move his desk far to take over the CEO role. Hopefully it doesn't come to that, and the two execs will form a relationship similar to the one used effectively by GM CEO Rick Wagoner and his product man, Bob Lutz.

[Source: Wall Street Journal via Motor Authority]


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