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Advice for New Owners

Good news, Detroit: Cerberus could be just what Chrysler needs to become a winner once more. Of course, the new owners also could wreck it.

Good news, Detroit: Cerberus could be just what Chrysler needs to become a winner once more.

Of course, the new owners also could wreck it. Some advice for the new team:No more cost cutting, no more plant closings. Chrysler is tightly run now, there's no fat.

Selling off pieces such as Jeep or the minivan operations would be the end of the company. Chrysler will succeed and prosper, but not by shrinking.

Past successes have come from speedy product development and innovative design and engineering. Chrysler needs daring, head-turning designs. No more cautious styling like today's Sebring.

Lee Iacocca fueled Chrysler's 1980s comeback with the ground-breaking, front-wheel-drive K-car and minivan.

Chrysler's early 1990s recovery was led by the novel cab-forward design of its LH sedans, in-your-face styling of the Ram pickup, Neon subcompact and pioneering PT Cruiser.

The last turnaround, under Dieter Zetsche, was led by the unique Chrysler 300, which still is an eye-catcher.

Don't forget about the importance of engines, either. Good engines stand out. Besides Chrysler's iconic Hemi, there are other memorable powerplants in the auto maker's history, too, such as the Slant 6.

Put 6-speed transmissions in everything, too.

And speed, speed, speed in getting out the new stuff.

In the 1990s, Chrysler was renowned for its platform-team concept; the fastest, lowest-cost product-development process in the industry.

It can do it again. Victory goes to he who gets there first.

That doesn't mean some heads might not have to roll. Chrysler's current leaders have made a lot of mistakes, including building too many trucks when sales were falling, and angering dealers.

As far as negotiating with the United Auto Workers union, just talk to the workers. Tell them directly by letter, e-mail or bullhorn what's needed to be competitive.

Show them how the Canadian Auto Workers union is keeping jobs by cooperating. The hourly workers will be with you, but you have to talk to them, individually, not just through Solidarity House.

Don't go overboard with the idea of global sales. Foreigners aren't going to buy Chrysler Sebrings and Dodge Avengers.

If you must have a global fantasy, let it be Jeep. Jeeps are right for third-world roads and have strong brand recognition worldwide. And if you have a small car built by Chery in China, go ahead and turn it into a global Chrysler, just as GM sells its South Korea-built Daewoos as Chevys around the world. But don't overdo it.

And rally around the flag. Campaign it. Run up a huge American flag in front of Auburn Hills. Let your former hero, Lee Iacocca, pull the lanyard and tell America: “Chrysler is home again. If you can find a better car, buy it.” n

Jerry Flint is a columnist for, and former senior editor of, Forbes magazine.

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