The bad news came when Dennis Kneale, the Forbes veteran who recently jumped to CNBC, asked Mr. Nardelli in jest -- and in playing to the crowd -- whether he planned to double or triple his magazine advertising. The audience, assembled for their luncheon talk during the American Magazine Conference, howled with happy laughter.
But Mr. Nardelli gingerly suggested that everyone already knows better, holding his hands up about 6 inches apart to represent spending ... then narrowing the gap. Mr. Kneale, taking the cue, translated: "Less is more."
That was as close as their talk got to the subject of media spending, but Mr. Nardelli did reveal a keen interest in the way Chrysler markets itself via customer interactions.
Corporate can only do so much, he said. Its network of dealers, however, are the full-contact company representatives that in the end actually close -- or lose -- sales.
"We've got to bring traffic in," he said. "And then they've got to work on the conversion."
To that end, he said he already has introduced a five-step program encouraging dealers to "buy in" to the aesthetic and other elements of the showroom experience.
Speaking more broadly, Mr. Nardelli said, as one might expect, that he will pull the company out of its troubles. "Chrysler's been knocked down, but never knocked out," he said. "We're in our fifth recovery period, if you go back."