Seeing Andreas Renschler take over DaimlerChrysler's troubled Smart Car project, it's tempting to make comparisons to General Motors' Saturn brand.
Renschler is no manufacturing specialist. He's not like someone Toyota sends to a sluggish supplier factory to find out why quality is so bad.
That's not Smart's problem and it's not Renschler's background.
Renschler is an organization expert. He is a strategic planner whose skill is nurturing human beings. He understands the magic of teamwork. And he knows how to build a team.
An esprit de corps may be the one secret ingredient that the Smart venture is now lacking. And Renschler is the man to deliver it.
Consider Renschler's, Smart's and Saturn's history so far.
GM committed billions to launching the new Saturn small-car brand in the USA a decade ago. It was GM's effort to break with past traditions and gamble on new technologies - in the factory and in the car.
Countless pundits warned GM it was making a mistake. GM insiders had trouble grasping that Saturn was not merely a new car but actually a new brand. And GM's own boardroom debates ended up slowing down Saturn's progress.
Now, go back and substitute the word 'Daimler' for GM and 'Smart' for Saturn and you have roughly the history of Smart.
But there was one big difference at Saturn: Saturn thrived on a team spirit. Literally. Saturn managers and employees understood it, and often toughened their resolve in the face of setbacks. Saturn dealers stayed happy, even when sales stumbled.
Now consider Smart's plight: The concept has transformed from a radical joint venture with the Swiss watchmaker, SMH Holdings, into a fierce battle for small-car buyers with small-car professionals such as Renault and Ford.
Headquartered in Biel, Switzerland, until earlier this year, the venture's sales bosses are now based in Renningen, Germany. But regional sales managers report to DaimlerChrysler offices in their respective countries. The company's engineering and procurement orders come from Daimler central offices in Stuttgart. And yet vehicle production is centered hundreds of miles away in Hambach, France.
Smart has suffered slow sales, management upheaval and a fear that Daimler might withdraw from the venture.
Now consider Renschler's track record.
As chief executive of Mercedes-Benz US International Inc., Renschler helped Daimler enter the world sport-utility market. He did it by breaking with old Daimler traditions and creating a new automotive culture 6,500km from home in Vance, Alabama.
Renschler developed a tight working relationship that was a blend of German, North American and even Japanese business cultures. He gave Daimler a glimpse into what a global company looks like.
Renschler's team-building skills received due notice from his bosses back in Stuttgart. For the past year, the 41-year-old Renschler's job has been to meet D/C managers on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been able to assess their personalities and skills, and determine which of them grasp D/C's direction and are capable of moving the company forward.
DaimlerChrysler made it clear this year that it is committed to moving the Smart brand forward. That will take a little more competitive spirit, more factory efficiency and a little more zeal for teamwork. It will take a truly focused organization to pull that off.
Lindsay Chappell is Automotive News Europe's staff reporter in Nashville, Tennessee in the USA.