Robert L. Nardelli, the new Chrysler chief executive, has tried hard to sound like a "car guy" from the moment he landed in Detroit. But in a presentation Monday the former Home Depot chief talked about the auto industry in a way that suggested he was still in a home-improvement state of mind.
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At Chrysler, Home Depot Still Lingers
DETROIT, Oct. 29 — Robert L. Nardelli, the new Chrysler chief executive, has tried hard to sound like a “car guy” from the moment he landed in Detroit. He boasted at his first news conference, in August, about his well-stocked garage that included a Jeep, a Plymouth Prowler and a PT Cruiser.
But in a presentation Monday at the Magazine Publishers of America conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Mr. Nardelli, who most recently ran Home Depot, talked about the auto industry in a way that suggested he was still in a home-improvement state of mind.
“I think a vehicle today has to be your most favorite room under your roof,” Mr. Nardelli said. “I really believe that. I mean, it has to bring you gratification, it has to be tranquil. It’s incidental that it gets you from Point A to B, right?”
That might give pause to horsepower enthusiasts and design buffs who follow grilles, chrome work and spoilers.
But Mr. Nardelli, who left Home Depot in January and was named to the Chrysler job in August, was clear about his perspective: “I’m a consumer, not a designer.”
Mr. Nardelli also said in the speech, which was broadcast online, that car shoppers want gadgets. “It has to have the latest technologies on board. It has to provide the comfort, it has to be kind of self-tutorial, on the education of it.”
An automobile also needs “cup holders — some for water and some for...,” Mr. Nardelli said, but he did not finish that thought.
A Chrysler spokesman, Mike Aberlich, said Mr. Nardelli’s comments might have stemmed from the briefings he received from the company’s marketing experts and car designers.
Their research has shown that customers are placing a greater emphasis on vehicle interiors. In fact, Chrysler has frequently referred to its minivans as “living rooms on wheels,” he said.
“I don’t know that it’s new, but it’s his own spin on it,” Mr. Aberlich said. “It’s good to have that fresh perspective, and he’s bringing that.”