Chrysler sputtering in China, too

It's not just North America that is yielding an ugly red balance sheet for Chrysler. reports that the automaker's position in China is in rough shape, too. Right before the taxpayer bailout of General Motors and Chrysler became official, Chrysler's Philip Murtaugh exited the company after just 15 months on the job, creating a leadership void in its Chinese operations. Murtaugh had joined Chrysler to lead its Asia/Pacific operations after 32 years at GM, the last ten of which were spent heading up the General's Chinese division, and a stint at China's SAIC.

The thinking was that Murtaugh would be the perfect man to establish successful relationships and footholds in China for the Pentastar, but things evidently haven't exactly worked out that way. At all. Chrysler is still without a joint-venture partner in China, and without such an agreement, production and distribution operations in the country are basically non-starters. Other business relationships the automaker has in China are described as being alternately "overcomplicated" and "inefficient", and recent negoatiations with companies like Great Wall haven't lead to anything. Chrysler's tiny sales footprint in China probably hasn't helped matters, either. Murtaugh's division reportedly had little juice with the home office as a result.

The search for business partners in China will now reportedly be lead out of Auburn Hills, which also has to deal with the immediate problems Chrysler faces in its own home market. One has to wonder, if Chrysler couldn't turn around its Chinese business with an experienced and reputable man on the ground in-country, is it really reasonable to think that managers in a boardroom half a world away will fare any better... especially when they're dealing with an even more pressing crisis on the home front? After all, it's hard to worry about painting the fence when the house is burning down.


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