Visitors from Germany's Thyssen AG visited Giddings & Lewis Inc., a Wisconsin supplier, to decide whether to buy it.
It was disconcerting to the Germans to discover that on Fridays, workers dressed casually.
The Germans' idea of casual, said Marvin Isles, chairman of Giddings & Lewis, was to take off their suit jackets.
With two national cultures as well as corporate cultures, the integration of 421,000 employees of Chrysler and Daimler-Benz is a complex task.
'Any merger takes an enormous amount of energy because of the conflicting cultures and the energy needed to get to know one another,' said Lou Hughes, president of General Motors International in Zurich. 'You tend to focus more on getting to know one another more than on the competition.'
In general, Germans know a lot more about Americans than Americans know of Germans. Germans born after the war grew up with American movies, television, and English as a mandatory subject in school. Few Americans speak more than English.
The biggest cultural point of tension may be the German tendency to stay in control and the American tendency to relax.
Juergen Schrempp and Bob Eaton have said they are co-chairmen, equally responsible for the future of the merged company.
Not all the executives at Daimler-Benz see it that way. In discussing the future of the Chrysler engine plant joint venture with BMW, a Daimler-Benz top executive said:
'It will be up to Schrempp what will happen next, and the matter is being examined.'
Globalization has forced corporations to be more flexible, but 'cultures don't change much,' said Richard Lewis, a London-based business consultant and author of 'When Cultures Collide.' Germans are still Germans and Americans are still Americans, he said.
Edward Kissel has experience as former executive at German-owned Continental General Tire.
'It's a very high risk,' he says, 'for an American employee to tell a German executive something that he needs to know but doesn't know.'
Kissel came in as executive vice president after German tire maker Continental AG took over General in 1987. He says the German bosses would not listen to his advice and that of other Americans.
'There is a wide variety of people in any culture,' said Ray Labuta, who was director of passenger car and light-truck tire development at General Tire when it was taken over by Continental. Some you enjoy working with, others you don't, he said.
Labuta is now a vice president at Hankook Tire America Corp.
Robert Oswald, board member for Robert Bosch GmbH, says the cultural issues that arise will depend on the areas of integration.
'They have announced that they intend to integrate purchasing,' said Oswald. 'I don't expect that there will be strong cultural issues there. Both companies have similar thought processes.'
In development areas, the issue will be learning from each other, says Oswald.
'The two companies have different targets,' he said. 'Daimler-Benz aims to be a technology leader, committed to value through content, emphasizing leadership. Chrysler has clearly followed a policy of being a fast second or third. They have put their emphasis on cost, styling and quality.'
Labuta, the ex-Continental executive, says that cultural clashes may be much more common lower in the company.
'If you start at the executive floors, those guys are worldly enough that they probably share the same values,' he said. At the lower levels, there might more of an 'us vs. them' attitude.
Not every cultural clash turns into a battle. In Wisconsin, the Germans at Giddings & Lewis are happily using first names and enjoy casual Fridays.
Edmund Chew and Kathy Jackson contributed to this report