Robert Eaton is trying to ensure that Chrysler is a full partner in DaimlerChrysler AG, and that the new company is better - not just bigger. The Chrysler Corp. chairman was interviewed by David Sedgwick and Peter Brown.
What is the biggest priority right after Day One of DaimlerChrysler?
The No. 1 item is the development of a new culture and the integration of the organizations.
How many Chrysler people will be going over to Europe?
We're identifying that group. At this point it is a small number, but it's going to grow almost by the day.
Is Chrysler going to be a cash cow for Mercedes?
No. Absolutely not.
When you talk to Chrysler executives in the USA, the Americans tend to think of it as a full partnership and merger. But the Germans tend to think: 'Once we get Chrysler into our fold, we'll be able to do certain things.'
I don't know who you're talking to. We know we can both learn tremendously from each other. There may well still be some misunderstandings and misconceptions out there, but they are going away fairly fast.
Are Mercedes dealers in Europe pursuing Chrysler dealerships?
There have been a number of them, yes. Some current Mercedes-Benz dealers in Europe can end up having a Chrysler dealership, and it's possible that they can share some of the back-room stuff.
Do you anticipate that the merger is going to elevate Chrysler in Europe above the niche category?
No. The vehicles that we make are still fundamentally vehicles from the USA that are designed to appeal to the world. But they aren't world vehicles. They are never going to go head-to-head with European vehicles designed in Europe, for Europe. Will we go from less than 1 percent to 2 or 3 or 4 percent? Sure. But by my definition, that's still niche. We're not contemplating doing a 'European vehicle.'
What about the next-generation Neon? Will that do any better in Europe?
A little better, but it will still be an American car. We're not going to have the 1.6-liter engine for initial introduction.
The Neon will get a boost when we get the 1.6-liter engine. But it's just not a European vehicle.
Mercedes-Benz has the reputation of having cutting-edge technology in its vehicles. How fast do you see some of that technology going into Chrysler's products?
You'll see some of it in a couple of years or so. We're starting to look at some things now.