DETROIT – In the U.S., “synergy” is a favorite buzzword of top executives describing a new merger or acquisition.

They usually see synergies coming out of the woodwork when they explain why it’s such a great idea to be spending billions to acquire this or that company or technology.

So more than a few U.S. reporters were surprised at the recent Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress this month when German auto supplier Continental AG’s Chairman Manfred Wennemer backed away from the word during a teleconference from Germany announcing Continental was buying the automotive electronics business of Motorola Inc. for $1 billion.

Wennemer said he was thrilled to be buying the Motorola businesses, but when asked by reporters at a press conference in Germany being telecast simultaneously with the Detroit announcement, Wennemer stated emphatically that he saw absolutely no “synergies” between the Continental and Motorola operations.

Not a one.

What gives?

A consultation with a state-side German reporter covering the World Congress reveals that in Germany, the word “synergy” has become synonymous with layoffs, so executives over there now avoid the word.

One U.S. reporter observed this could signal a paradigm shift in the way CEOs choose to describe their next win-win, merger of equals.

dwinter@wardsauto.com