FRANKFURT - The 250 top-level DaimlerChrysler executives who gathered over a weekend in Seville, Spain, earlier this month came away feeling uplifted.
'The Germans are more similar to us than different,' said James Julow, Dodge Division manager at DaimlerChrysler Corp., in Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA. 'I'm inspired. Everyone is thinking like (co-chairman Juergen) Schrempp. They want to focus on moving forward at top speed.'
But back in Stuttgart what emerged from Seville has some German executives at the former Daimler-Benz feeling uneasy. They worry that DaimlerChrysler's new Chrysler-style sales and marketing organization threatens the brand separation the new company says it is determined to uphold.
A new operating structure announced after the Seville meeting on 11-12 December gives Dieter Zetsche, the Mercedes-Benz brand czar, simultaneous responsibility for sales of all former Chrysler brands in Europe and three other regions of the world.
Meanwhile, James Holden, head of North American sales and marketing, will be responsible for Mercedes-Benz sales operations in North America.
Mike Jackson, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz of North America, will take strategic brand direction from Zetsche in Germany, but will report directly to Holden, executive vice president of DaimlerChrysler Corp., in Auburn Hills.
'There is potential conflict in this new structure,' said an insider at DaimlerChrysler AG's Stuttgart co-headquarters. 'Today you only have the word of the board members that they will carefully watch brand identity.'
While there is limited product overlap between the new partners, this is likely to increase in the future.
A new Mercedes-Benz passenger minivan is under consideration, and the M-class sport-utility and Jeep Grand Cherokee will be built together at the Steyr-Daimler-Puch plant in Graz, Austria, beginning in May.
The Mercedes A-class in Europe could compete with the Chrysler Neon, and the Chrysler 300M may compete with larger Mercedes passenger cars.
Senior marketing executives will adopt Chrysler's famed 'matrix' system of cross-functional job assignments. Along with his sales operations duties, Zetsche will also oversee global brand management for Mercedes-Benz and Smart. North American sales boss Holden will manage the Jeep, Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge brands worldwide.
Theodor Cunningham will be responsible for Latin America sales and for worldwide integration of common sales and marketing systems and processes. At Chrysler, Cunningham supervised international affairs.
Kurt Lauk will be responsible for the commercial vehicle brands Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, Sterling and Setra and also their sales operations.
Lauk was previously in charge of commercial vehicles at the former Daimler-Benz AG.
At Chrysler, top executives have long held dual responsibilities, mixing product planning duties with a marketing job, for example. But the concept is foreign to Daimler-Benz veterans.
'Chrysler got very good results with this kind of matrix structure,' said a DaimlerChrysler official in Stuttgart. 'But for Daimler-Benz management this is a new approach.'
Some are worried about how Mercedes passenger cars will be treated in the new system.
'There is a sense that we might have to make compromises that wouldn't have been necessary in former times,' said a source in Germany.
But DaimlerChrysler says a marketing integration council of Cunningham, Holden, Lauk and Zetsche will identify potential conflicts before they arise. The council will fix sales and profit targets for the group.
A network of brand managers in each national market will also be set up to safeguard the individual nameplates.
Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler's supervisory board held its inaugural meeting last week. As expected, former Daimler-Benz supervisory board chairman Hilmar Kopper was made chairman of the new 20-member board, which includes 10 employee representatives.
The supervisory board formally named the 18-member management board, though only 17 positions were filled. One expected member, Dennis Pawley from Chrysler, announced his retirement this month as North American manufacturing chief. Gary Henson was named to replace Pawley, but sources say the 56-year-old former General Motors executive will not join the management board.
Pawley headed Chrysler manufacturing since 1991. Henson had been head of North American car and truck assembly plants and stamping operations.
DaimlerChrysler also announced that Andreas Renschler, who led development and production of the M-class sport-utility as head of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will be in charge of the cultural integration of managers from the two sides of the company.