Jason Ryska, the current plant manager at Jefferson North, keeps a baseball bat in his office to remind him of the first time he made contact with the Jeep Grand Cherokee under Fiat (F) management. It was on stage in an amphitheater at Chrysler's design and engineering center in Auburn Hills, shortly after Fiat took control in 2009. Marchionne, the new chief executive officer, handed Louisville Sluggers to Ryska and a gang of Chrysler executives who had survived bankruptcy. He told them to start swinging at the Jeep that was once the pride of the fleet. This wasn't the hot new Grand Cherokee that Ryska builds now. It was the previous model that had been compromised and cost-cut until it was stripped of its dignity and reduced to an "also-ran," as designer Ralph Gilles said. Ryska grabbed the bat and began pounding. It was a corporate catharsis.
"We beat the hell out of that thing," Ryska recalled. "It was symbolic of what we had to do as a company: Destroy everything that we built the company on, that we held in high regard and we thought made us successful. Destroy that in order to start from the ground level and build up."Read more »