FRANKFURT - The departure of Bob Eaton as co-chairman of DaimlerChrysler leaves the company under sole control of the man who has driven its strategy since its 1998 merger - former Daimler head Jurgen Schrempp.
Eaton's decision to retire also raises new questions about the future of the Chrysler operations within the increasingly German-dominated automaker.
It is another in a series of exits over the past 18 months by top executives who helped make Chrysler one of the world's most profitable automakers.
But analysts dismissed fears that the company could become less aggressive under a board containing nine Germans and just four Americans.
'It was clear from the beginning that there was one chairman, there could only be one chairman, Mr. Schrempp, and nothing has altered that expectation since then,' said Christopher Will, an auto analyst with Lehman Brothers.
Still, German auto executives were reminded of the departure three years earlier of Helmut Werner, the former head of Mercedes-Benz.
After beating out Werner for the top job at Daimler in 1995, Schrempp swept away his power base by eliminating Mercedes' status as a subsidiary company with its own board of directors.
But a central part of Schrempp's strategy is the desire to keep Chrysler's essential 'American-ness' intact despite the departure of figures like Eaton, who turned the struggling US group around in the early 1990s.
Eaton had given himself a maximum of three years in the D/C post to ensure the merger went well. Some analysts said his departure puts the final seal on the integration.
'This is very important because it means the Chrysler people no longer have to worry about whether Eaton is staying or leaving,' said D/C insider. 'We now have have one strong American identity and that is Holden,' referring to the now senior US executive, Jim Holden, president of DaimlerChrysler Corp.
The D/C merger grew out of meetings between Eaton and Schrempp two years ago this month. During the past two years there was 'never, ever any friction,' said a D/C spokesman.
Eaton dismissed speculation that he would now chair D/C's supervisory board.
'He doesn't need that for his ego,' said a D/C source, 'and he doesn't need it for money.'