You know both companies, so write about the potential "culture clash," Editor in-Chief Dave Smith suggested.
OK, these two cultures,and , can't clash because they don't even intersect. They could be operating on different planets.
Let me give you an example:
Earlier this year, the newest Mercedes, the tiny A Class, rolled over in the infamous Swedish moose test. After some confusion in the ranks, Juergen Schrempp,-Benz CEO, made the policy clear: Production was halted, the vehicle was re-engineered.
A stability system was added, tires changed, the body was lowered. Then the car was reintroduced.
Anyone who had an early model could get it updated. I figure all this cost Mercedes $1,000 a car and guarantees that the A Class will lose money for years.
But Mr. Schrempp understood one big thing: Mercedes' prime assets are its honor and reputation. Whatever the price, those must be preserved.
Now let's imagine that Jim Healy of USA Today puts the newGrand Cherokee through the moose test, and it rolls.
How would Chrysler answer? In this order:
1. They all do that! There's no problem.
2. Healy can't drive and everybody knows it. He could roll a surfboard on the interstate.
3.The Grand Cherokee doesn't roll over any more than any other SUV.
4. This is not a safety defect.
5. The problem was caused by a defective supplier part that has been corrected.
6. We are studying the issue, but privately and off-the-record, our lawyers say we can't say or do anything because that would open us to lawsuits.
You can see this isn't a clash because Mercedes isn't going to change its ways. After all, that's why it is Mercedes. And it will be some time before Chrysler changes.
In my lifetime I do not expect to see a car with the three-pointed Mercedes star roll down the line of a Chrysler plant in the U.S. r Canada.
In my lifetime I do not expect to see a car with a Chrysler emblem roll down a Mercedes line in Stuttgart.
Mercedes has a strong global distribution system, and Chrysler builds vehicles - Jeeps, minivans and pickups - with great potential in these areas, so that should work.
It'll be a little tougher in the trenches, though, because their engineering philosophies are so different. I recall just a few weeks ago arguing for half an hour with a Chrysler engineer who insisted that side air bags weren't good enough yet for cars. I can't wait for him to explain this to the folks in Stuttgart who are putting them on as fast as possible.
This isn't putting down Chrysler. It's saving a buck until the last minute; that's the system. But it's not the Mercedes way, where price is less of an issue.
That doesn't mean things can't work out.
Chrysler Chairman Bobsays there's good "chemistry" between the two companies, and that he and Juergen - both engineers - see eye-to-eye on most things. Heck, they even smoke the same brand of cigars.
That said, one of the things going for the merger is that the personalities of the two CEOs are so different. Mr. Schrempp wants to be a media star, a figure on the world business stage. He loves the microphone and camera. He has an ego the size of Moby Dick.
Mr.is the opposite. He's willing to give up the spotlight if that helps get the job done. He has even shared the stage for years with Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, which means being next to invisible. Mr. Eaton is more of the strong, silent type. He is a man who draws a line. He will go so far, and no farther.
Mercedes people had better understand this about Bob. He doesn't back down. Remember how he walked away from the China minivan deal? And then Mercedes grabbed it. See any Mercedes minivans built in China lately? And what about the faceoff with his biggest shareholder, Kirk Kerkorian, a few years ago?
OK, but who'll run this company? Mssrs. Schrempp and Eaton are starting out as co-chairmen, but the resident Yankee from Kansas retires in three years. Mr. Eaton says absolutely nothing will change. We'll see.
Some 40% to 45% of the stock goes to Chrysler stockholders. My guess is that even at this moment, there are more Americans owning stock in DaimlerChrysler (or will be before long) than Germans. Chrysler is not widely held by individuals, but by various funds, which Americans invest in.
A 22% chunk of Daimler-Benz is owned by the Deutschesbank, which, as I recall, bought it back from the ayatollahs of Iran. And shares of Daimler probably are held by other Europeans. Germans aren't into the stock market as much as Americans.
With, as I suspect, Americans becoming the largest holders of the stock, with the Chrysler side earning most of the profit, and with the real financial dangers coming from the non-automotive units that Daimler owns (they can lose a fortune), this will be a truly global company, with - if it works - Americans and Germans working together and running it jointly.
Something like Unilever or Royal Dutch Shell.
Good luck guys. At least now Mssrs. Lutz and Eaton can drive some really fast sedans from the DaimlerChrysler pool.
Is there any way we can get that slick SLK steel convertible roof on the Sebring?