It is prove-it time for Robert Nardelli. It has been barely a week since he was named the new CEO at Chrysler and already the whispering, questioning and speculating is afoot in automotive circles about which Nardelli has arrived. United Autoworkers President Ron Gettelfinger endorsed the Cerberus acquisition of Chrysler only to have the firm name as the new CEO a man whose name has become synonymous with corporate excess. So the question is teed up: Is Nardelli here to save Chrysler, or just save Cerberus’s investment? The two don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Is Chrysler getting the Nardelli who boosted profits at Home Depot for a few years before leaving a slew of problems and making off with a massive pile of shareholders’ money? Will he simply wring costs out of Chrysler and pump short-term profits at the expense of the carmaker’s future? Or are we getting the hard-charging boss who retired General Electric Chairman Jack Welch hails as one of the best operating executives he ever worked with? There are a few hypothetical scenarios one can imagine where Nardelli could emerge as hero or villain.
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