LaSorda Gears Up for Chrysler COO

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2005 Chrysler 300/Dodge Magnum by TCC Team (3/12/2004)
A triumphant return for rear-wheel drive.

Tom LaSorda, the factory whiz kid who devised production systems at both General Motors and Chrysler, says he is looking forward to his new role as Chrysler Group’s chief operating officer.

LaSorda is scheduled to replace Wolfgang Bernhard as COO May 1 and he is turning over his duties as executive vice president in charge of manufacturing to Frank Ewasyshyn, who is moving up from the post of senior vice president for advanced manufacturing.

“I plan to keep responsibility for the launches,” said LaSorda, who was in charge of the preparation for the assembly of the new vehicles Chrysler is bringing out in the next several months.

LaSorda, however, also said during a tour of DaimlerChrysler’s Windsor assembly plant, that he was looking forward to the challenges of serving as COO.

“I consider myself a car guy,” said LaSorda. “I just come at from a different direction,” LaSorda.

However, LaSorda said he also going to learn more about designing new vehicles. Dieter Zetsche, the Chrysler Group’s chief executive officer, has agreed to step in and coach him, LaSorda added.

A little more discipline

At the same time, however, he also plans to bring some of the concern about cost and discipline he’s learned during his years as manufacturing executive to the rest of Chrysler’s operations, he said.

LaSorda also said all the major launches Chrysler has planned this year are moving ahead on schedule. The launch of the new PT Cruiser convertible in Mexico has been nearly perfect and the convertible is already sold out into next summer, he said. “I’m going to have to find a way to build more,” he said.

The launch at the assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario, where Chrysler is building its new rear-wheel-drive Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum, also is going exceptionally well. The Chrysler Group began shipping the 300 to dealers Monday and the Magnum should be ready for shipment to dealers in another “five or six weeks,” LaSorda said.

Chrysler officials haven’t confirmed it officially yet but the Brampton plant will also build a new Dodge Charger for the 2006 model year.

The Warren Truck plant, where Chrysler plans to add a third production shift, is getting ready for the launch of the new Dodge Dakota, LaSorda said. The Jefferson North Assembly plant in Detroit is being revamped for the introduction of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is set to make its official debut next month at the New York Auto Show.

LaSorda grew up four blocks from DaimlerChrysler’s Windsor assembly plant and he worked in the plant one summer before he joined General Motors Corp. after he graduated from the University of Windsor, which sits nestled under the Canadian end of the Ambassador Bridge. A sister still works in the plant and serves as Canadian Auto Workers representative on the third shift. Two of his brothers-in-law also work in the plant where his father once served as union president.

“I’ve got a lot of relatives in this plant. I have pretty good idea what goes on,” says LaSorda.

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