Chrysler LLC scored a coup today when it snatched Jim Press from the top position at Toyota Motor North America Inc. It's the latest in a recent string of announcements aimed at beefing up Detroit's No. 3 automaker. Will Chrysler once again become a formidable player or is it's new investment bank owner, Cerberus Capital Management, just trying to sweeten the pot for an eventual spinoff?

Toyota’s top dog in North America, Jim Press, has taken a key position at Chrysler LLC (Auburn Hills, MI). Press, formerly president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America Inc. (New York), is now Chrysler’s vice chairman and president. He’ll share the title with Tom LaSorda.

In his new role, Press will be responsible for North American sales, international sales, global marketing, product strategy, service and parts. LaSorda will be responsible for manufacturing, procurement and supply, employee relations, global business development and alliances. “Our top team now consists of a world-class ‘supply’ leader in Tom and an equally world-class ‘demand’ leader in Jim,” says Robert Nardelli, Chrysler’s chairman and CEO.

Press joins Chrysler after 37 years with Toyota, where he most recently served as the first non-Japanese president of Toyota Motor North America, responsible for sales, engineering and 15 manufacturing plants. He was also the first non-Japanese executive selected to the board of directors of Toyota Motor Corp. (Nagoya, Japan). During his tenure at Toyota, the company grew from an upstart selling 100,000 vehicles per year to the second largest automaker in the United States.

This is the Pentastar’s latest bombshell in a long string of announcements over the last few months, including:

*A strategic partnership with Chery Automobile Co. (Wuhu, China). The companies will work together to develop, manufacture and export small, subcompact cars for sale in Europe and North America.

*A $1.2 billion investment in the Brampton, ON, assembly plant that builds full-size cars such as the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum.

*A $530 million investment in a joint-venture with Getrag (Untergruppenbach, Germany) to build a new transmission assembly plant in Tipton, IN.

*A $450 million investment to retool the Kenosha, WI, engine plant.

*A new $570 million engine plant in Saltillo, Mexico, that will produce a new family of fuel-efficient V-6 engines.

*A new $730 million engine plant in Trenton, MI, that will also assembly V-6 powertrains.

*A new $700 million plant in Marysville, MI, that will build 1.2 million axles annually.

What do you think of this announcement? Now that Toyota has become the world’s No. 1 automaker, why would Press give up his cushy position? Does this mean Chrysler will become a force to reckon with in the years to come?