When automotive analysts look back on the start of the 21st century, they likely will regard Internet mania as the era's silliest development, said Jim Holden, president of DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group.
To help avoid those conclusions, the goal for contemporary Internet strategists should be to focus almost exclusively on trimming costs.
'The question should be: 'How do we use this to revolutionize our cost base?'' Holden said. 'If we do that, we'll break out of the Rust Belt mentality, even if we're still manufacturing companies.'
In a speech at the Automotive News World Congress, Holden reported on the state of the DaimlerChrysler merger and on the potential for sharing costs between Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz.
Engineers from Mercedes and Chrysler are looking at several beneath-the-skin component-sharing opportunities, including suspension parts, engines, transmissions and heating and cooling systems, Holden said.
'There are ways to share components and not share customers,' he said.
For example, Mercedes-Benz will contribute a transmission to the Jeep Grand Cherokee built in Graz, Austria, Holden said.
In another parts-sharing exercise, engineers at each arm of the company looked at engines from the other, he said.
Each team found it could eliminate $100 worth of cost from the engine it was looking at without the customer knowing what changes were made. It was an example of the real long-term potential cost savings inherent in the merger, Holden said.
But underlying the lure of parts sharing is the importance of maintaining distinct brands, he said.