How quickly we forget our recent business history. Only five to six years ago, the business media reported that the only way Detroit could save itself was to dump insiders who had risen through the ranks of the auto industry, because their corporate mindset was part of the cancer destroying the Big Three from within. Bob Nardelli of Cerberus, a man who knew nothing about automobiles or large-scale consumer manufacturing, pundits declared to be the smartest move to save Chrysler. Similarly, they thought Ed Whitacre of AT&T could resurrect what had once been the great General Motors.
It felt like déjà vu: 15 years before that, everyone had hailed GM’s hiring of an outside brand manager to make things right for the corporation. That person would be Ron Zarella, from Bausch and Lomb. Zarella would quickly be promoted to GM’s president of North America for his insightful brilliance — which amounted to maintaining that you sell the public on an automotive brand the same way you convince them that Samsonite is the only luggage anyone ever needs to buy.