By on August 21, 2009

Anonymous sources tell the Wall Street Journal that former Toyota executive and current Chrysler Deputy CEO Jim Press will leave the Pentastar by the end of November. Press, who currently serves as a special adviser to Sergio Marchionne tells the WSJ ,”I don’t think anything has been released about management changes,” echoing Chrysler’s official “no comment.”

Press was hired away from Toyota two years ago to much acclaim. “This is quite a coup for Chrysler,” said industry analyst Jim Hall at the time. “Press understands automotive sales better than 98 percent of people involved in the business. More significantly, he has real product savvy, something that Chrysler desperately needs.” Ironically, one of Press’ highest-profile roles in his two-year Auburn Hills sojourn came when he was grilled by Congress about Chrysler’s dealer cull. Now that he’s looking for work again, will Press get the same awestruck praise as he did after leaving Toyota? Don’t count on it.

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19 Comments on “Having Failed to Transform Chrysler into Toyota, Jim Press Is Leaving...”

  • avatar

    What a colossal career f%@$-up! I’ve made some stupid ones myself but I’m talking chump-change kinds of career miscues; this one was enormous! Of course his titanic mess-up came with titanic $$$ so he’s no worse for wear at the end of the day other than a tarnished image and possibly a bruised ego.

  • avatar

    With what Chry. Co. paid to get him, he might not be to worried about looking for work anytime soon and two years isn’t enough time to really accomplish anything (especially at Chrysler, given the products he was starting with and most of the time was dealing with the coming doom) in the auto world.

    At the same time he did take alot of credit (self) when the new tundra came out (something about finally convincing Japan about how the US truck market worked)

    Prediction – He’ll be at GM (unless he has no-compete clause for specific period of time) by the end of the month and will be the “id” to Lutz’s “ego”.

  • avatar

    It made me cringe to see this friendly-looking, oibvously smart, and seemingly modest (I’m really only talking about the pictures, I don’t know him that well) prostitute himself by pushing Chrysler products. It started to look like a bad burlesque act.
    Losing one’s self respect for money was what that move was about. Maybe Mr. Press thought he could make a difference at Chrysler, but he just became a salesman.

  • avatar

    AKM :

    Maybe Mr. Press thought he could make a difference at Chrysler, but he just became a salesman.

    Worse than that, I’d say he went from being quite a stand up guy to one who’s slinging Chrysler BS with the best of the Nardelli crew. The Cerebus $ must have been impressive but I can only assume that he’s finally leaving because 1) The money’s in the bank 2)No amount of money is worth being the front man to Congress and the public for dead man walking AKA Chrysler/Fiat.

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    We all have our price. I guess we know his.

    As for fears of his ruined reputation – really, does that matter? The US auto industry has proven that it’s always ready to recycle some executive loser that’s screwed up multiple times before.

    Maybe he’s old enough that he just goes away and counts his money.

  • avatar

    Well, unless he gets bored, he can just retire for good. Certainly he’s got enough money to do whatever he wants.

    I did lose a lot of respect for him though when he jumped from Toyota to Chrysler.

  • avatar

    Rather than being an automotive prostitute perhaps he really did think he could have a hand in turning around Chrysler. I mean he had hit the ceiling at Toyota, most “A” types strive for the top and he wasn’t ever going to get it there or be anymore than the token “american” board member. I imagine that projections for R&D, new model, marketing, etc. spending he was given b4 hand probably did not quite materialize.

  • avatar

    I don’t think greed motivated Mr Press. He achieved it all at Toyota, but he was never going to get the CEO position.

    I believe he wanted to resurrect Chrysler and be pivotal in reviving an American icon.

    In fact, he should have lobbied for Ford’s job. That would have been interesting….

  • avatar

    In fact, he should have lobbied for Ford’s job. That would have been interesting….

    Given how things have progressed I think that Ford is quite happy with Mullally. Unless you mean lobby for “a” job at Ford.

  • avatar

    I agree with rnc and Katie – Cerberus talked a good game and I think that Press thought that he could be one of the group that saved Chrysler yet again. I remember being optimistic that Cerberus really was out to make a new kind of car company. (And no, I have NOT purchased any Florida swampland, thank you).

    Anyway, I think that he did the best he could with what he had once he got there. I don’t think that he will be considered damaged goods if he wants to get back into the industry. Maybe he could get LaNeve’s job.

  • avatar

    Jim Press’s tenure at Chrysler at least takes away one those excuses like “yeah, but if Chrsyler could just get some Japanese style management on board….then they’d be in good shape.”

  • avatar

    I think rnc and Katie have it right. Press was never going to be CEO at Toyota. Ford (Bill) already had his heart set on Mullaly and it took a presindential intervention to get Rick out of the top spot at GM. He had a chance at Chrysler to be the top dog eventually. Now with Sergio there he may have realized that that chance is gone. No I don’t think he’s damaged goods. Maybe the Chinese will pick him to build a dealer network for them in the US when they are ready to enter the market.

    But, remember this is not confirmed. So until he says he’s leaving we are just speculating.

  • avatar

    Ford should trade Mark Fields plus a conditional draft pick to Chrysler for the rights to sign Press.

  • avatar

    Prediction – He’ll be at GM (unless he has no-compete clause for specific period of time) by the end of the month and will be the “id” to Lutz’s “ego”.

    Press, like many of North American managers who helped make Toyota, Nissan and Honda successful, got his start at a Detroit automaker, in his case, GM.

    I once had a chance to talk with Jim Press about three years ago one on one, with no other media or Toyota handlers present. He’s an affable guy, who seems without guile. So if he’s slinging bullshit, it’s hard to tell. He also seemed to be universally admired by Toyota people in NA.

    I asked him about comments he’d been quoted at the time as saying that GM would turn itself around, and if he really felt that, or was it just for public consumption. He earnestly said that for Toyota to ignore the formidable technical and manufacturing resources of a company like GM would be at their own risk. I think he meant it.

    I always figured his move to Chrysler was motivated by the knowledge that a geijin would never be CEO of Toyota (let’s be real about the issue we’ve been dancing around). That and a lot of cash with the promise of even more if Cerberus’ gamble paid off.

    I can see him ending up at Ford, btw. He worked closely with Jim Farley at Toyota. Yes Alan Mullaly is the CEO now, but Mullaly is something like 63. He’s already been asked when he’s going to retire and he insists he’s staying aboard till the ship comes in, but if there’s an economic rebound by 2012 and Ford returns to profitability, I think Al’s gonna say the weekly flights from Seattle aren’t worth it and retire.

    I’m sure he’s got the chops to replace Mark Fields, but Fields isn’t going anywhere and seems to be very good at keeping his job, so it might be hard to make a slot for Press in Dearborn.

  • avatar

    My prediction is that he ends up on the BoD of some Fortune 500 company that has some manufacturing base… and the next time you see him in the news is when he is asked to be a guest speaker at a marketing convention.

  • avatar

    Press probably didn’t see the complete meltdown coming…and in fairness, neither did his old employer, Toyota, or any other automaker, for that matter. I think when the history of this is written, it’ll be written as a perfect storm – some of the stuff was foreseeable, while other crises, such as the collapse of the financial markets, wasn’t.

    What I wonder is this: what, exactly, did Chrysler have up its sleeves that sucked a guy like Press in, and is ANY of it going to survive after the Fiat takeover?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Press may have been no better or worse at what he did than 100 other managers, but he was smart enough to follow his boss Max Jamiesson from Ford to Toyota in 1970.

    I also suspect that his long career in a consensus building culture did not prepare him for dealing with the sharks at Cerberus.

  • avatar
    Lug Nuts

    Some companies are beyond saving no matter who they hire. And for too potential buyers, Chrysler’s image is permanently tarnished by utter garbage product from past decades.

  • avatar

    I don’t know what Press did or didn’t do at Chrysler, but his move there seeems entirely greedy to me. He thought he could make a difference and didn’t see the writing on the wall with Cerberus? I don’t buy it. Sure we’re an almost purely cynical bunch but we called that debacle from the beginning.

    I think Press was in it for the money. He certainly didn’t stand up and take the reigns when he got to Chrysler. Even if that wasn’t his assigned role, he had the stature to institute major change there.

    In the end, I feel safe in speculating that I don’t know what he did or didn’t do because nothing he did was significant enough to report. Mullaly, on the other hand, was in the news right away for the major changes he was instituting at Ford.

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