California Autos Examiner

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fire At the Firehouse? Vines Departs From Chrysler

Was it the cattle idea?

Jason Vines, Chrysler's PR chief, had a lot of fans in the industry. His outspoken style frequently got him in the headlines. For the most part, his comic personality worked to his advantage. For example, can you name the people at GM and Ford who hold similar positions? However, his sometimes brash approach meant that at times he would clash with other strong personalities. It would appear that in this case, he clashed with none other than Chrysler Chief Executive Robert Nardelli.

I knew this day was coming. Nardelli has a "large" persona and it was only a matter of time before he butted heads with someone. What was it that caused the split? The WSJ speculates that Vines had been pushing Mr. Nardelli and Vice Chairman Jim Press to speak to the media about Chrysler's turnaround efforts, but that Mr. Nardelli opposed him. It's also a known fact that Cerberus Capital Management's chairman, Stephen Feinberg, is a famously secretive person.

Is this a big loss for Chrysler? Well, it pays to have friends in the media and Vines had that in spades. Being privately owned, Chrysler certainly doesn't have to impress investors in the same way that it did as a publicly held company. However, you have to get your story out there and having a well liked pitchman certainly helps. What is also concerning is that the corporate communications department will now report to human resources. That sounds like a demotion of a department to me.

I'll be honest, I didn't always find Jason's style that appealing. However, I never like to see anyone lose their job. I'm not worried about Vines, however, as he has many friends and different avenues to pursue. I'm sure there is company out there just itching to have a guy like Jason Vines tell its story.

For a sample of Jason's humor, I submit the video above.

sources: autonews, wsj

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