Juergen Schrempp and Robert Eaton, co-chairmen of DaimlerChrysler, say they are getting along fine. In the first 90 days, they will focus on integration and organization, and will decide whether to buy Nissan Diesel, the heavy truck arm of Nissan Motor Co. They were interviewed in New York on Day One by Ralph Kisiel and Bradford Wernle of Automotive News Europe.
How are you guys getting along?
Eaton: The chemistry is fantastic. You know, we've been at this for over 10 months now. Bob Lutz and I were quite different, and obviously Juergen and I have differences. But when you focus on the business, we don't have differences. We want to build strong brands, we want to build a strong company, we want to build customer satisfaction.
Schrempp: The two of us were not asked by any board to do what we did. We did it voluntarily. We did it because it is good for our companies. We have to create something which really is the company of the 21st century. The two of us wanted what we are doing. We have been tested already. The first test was the name, and we resolved that. I'll tell you, that was a difficult one.
Will the 18-member board of management be reduced?
Schrempp: When we presented the structure to our employees, we said it's the Day One structure. There will be an evolutionary process as we go along.
Given Tom Stallkamp's deep involvement in the integration of the new company, is he the closest thing to an American-style corporate president for DaimlerChrysler AG?
Eaton: He's the closest thing, but in the German structure there isn't a chief operating officer as there is in the USA. He's got a huge, huge, huge responsibility, not only looking after the Chrysler brands as president of DaimlerChrysler Corp. but as the key person in the integration of sales and marketing, manufacturing and so forth.
Some have portrayed the merger as the death of Chrysler. Is anybody portraying it as the death of Daimler-Benz?
Schrempp: Not the death. But there are a number of issues which puzzle the German media.
The first one is the people are a bit worried that they will get Americanized. It has a little to do with the fact that I have played a bit of a role in changing Germany's corporate life.
The other one is dividend policy. We couldn't have convinced Chrysler shareholders to swap into DaimlerChrysler shares if you did not follow a dividend policy of Chrysler.
And the third one that puzzles the media is management compensation. This is a major issue, particularly in Germany. So you see there are some anxieties, within the company and very much within the media. They want to know whether we will be a German-based American company. We have a balance in anxieties, and that's a good thing.
Will you now be faster to market with new vehicles?
Eaton: Yes, in the respective segments. Now the time frame to bring a Mercedes-Benz, like an S-class, with all the new technologies, takes longer than a Dodge Durango. But clearly we're all working to get faster for our respective brands.
Where would you like to be in 90 days' time?
Eaton: We've got a fairly aggressive decision schedule ahead of us. Some of it has to do with organization, some of it with integration, some of it with things like Nissan Diesel. All of those are on track to move forward.
Schrempp: The decision (on Nissan Diesel) rests with us and we will consider that within the next few weeks. We have promised to make decisions before the year end, and we will do so. We will also take into account that the integration of the two parts of DaimlerChrysler is of paramount priority.
Are there any obvious holes in your product lineup at this point?
Eaton: Sure. We need something below the Neon to be an entry level in emerging markets, something in the 1-liter class or less. That's the obvious hole in our product lineup and frankly, about the only one.