May 2, 2009 at 8:37 pm

LaSorda's legacy is 'unselfish devotion'

Chrysler President Tom LaSorda announced his retirement after 32 years in the automotive industry. (Gary Malerba Associated Press)

Chrysler LLC Vice Chairman and President Tom LaSorda, who oversaw manufacturing and acquisitions for the Auburn Hills-based automaker, made it official Friday: He's retiring, effective immediately.

LaSorda had previously told reporters that after 32 years, he intends to spend more time with his wife and two daughters.

The Windsor, Ontario, native grew up in the shadow of Chrysler's minivan plant. He is a third-generation Chrysler employee from a family of labor leaders with the Canadian Auto Workers. It made for spicy dinner conversation over the years as he pursued a career on the corporate side and made his mark implementing manufacturing practices that require fewer workers.

LaSorda joined Chrysler in 2000 after more than 23 years with General Motors Corp., where he helped launch the GM-Suzuki joint venture plant -- CAMI Automotive in Ingersoll, Ontario -- as well as an Opel plant in Eisenach, Germany, that was considered a benchmark of efficiency.

LaSorda began his Chrysler career overseeing manufacturing for DaimlerChrysler AG.

He moved up the ranks to become chief operating officer, then president and CEO, guiding Chrysler through the transitional period of the Daimler divorce that led to Cerberus Capital Management LP buying a majority stake in the Chrysler division.

He was relegated to the No. 2 position when Cerberus appointed industry outsider Robert Nardelli to chairman. Lasorda remained on board, even as a second vice chairman Jim Press was added to the team.

He oversaw manufacturing, suppliers, labor, global business development and alliance.

"Tom arranged the first meeting with Fiat (SpA) and played a pivotal role in developing the alliance that will bring Chrysler a wealth of strategic advantages," Nardelli said Friday in praising LaSorda's "unselfish devotion."

"He truly has the company in his blood."

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