STUTTGART - DaimlerChrysler's tactics at troubled Mitsubishi Motors will be modeled on Renault's tight control of Nissan, according to D/C Chairman Jurgen Schrempp.
In an interview with Automotive News Europe, Schrempp said that dozens of managers at DaimlerChrysler's German headquarters are being considered for assignments in Japan. He said D/C executives would fill senior positions in key areas such as product development and marketing.
DaimlerChrysler bought 34 percent of Mitsubishi Motors in April for about $2 billion. It then renegotiated a lower price for the stake and a stronger management position in September after Mitsubishi was rocked by a recall scandal that collapsed its share price.
Schrempp said the decisive measures Renault is taking to fix Nissan - such as closing plants - would make D/C's job easier.
'We have an advantage because [Nissan President Carlos] Ghosn has been a bit of an icebreaker,' said Schrempp. 'We are obviously studying what is happening there. I have a feeling that Ghosn is doing a good job.'
Ghosn, the former Renault executive vice president, unveiled a recovery plan for Nissan a year ago and last week reported that Nissan has returned to profitability. Renault installed Ghosn and other executives in key positions in Tokyo after buying a controlling stake in Nissan in March 1999.
DaimlerChrysler in September named Rolf Eckrodt, head of the group's Adtranz rail equipment unit, as Mitsubishi's chief operating officer and day-to-day boss. Like Ghosn, he is considered a tough taskmaster. Mitsubishi's management board has been expanded to 11 to accommodate him.
'The new COO is unwinding [Adtranz] in Berlin,' Schrempp said. 'He is in the loop. He [and Mitsubishi executives] have identified the posts together and we have a list of 40 or 50 candidates.
'We are talking about the two or three levels under the board,' he said. 'We are talking about senior people.'
Schrempp said DaimlerChrysler would adopt some of the same tough measures taken by Renault to fix Nissan.
'Certain things - not all things,' he said. 'But you will appreciate it is politically easier to do it once the ice is broken. The two companies [Nissan and Mitsubishi] are different. Their strengths and weaknesses are different. We might have to fill posts in different areas, but the principle will be the same.'
Asked if D/C may put in place its own head of product development - as Renault did at Nissan - Schrempp said, 'Yes, product development or marketing - senior positions in various sections. We might need somebody for Information Technology, for example. That's presently being looked at.'
Without D/C managers on board, Schrempp said it would be much harder for Eckrodt to influence the company.
'If you move into a company and particularly with a management style like [Mitsubishi's] it is difficult,' he said. 'And if the guy at the top says we should do something and has to force it down [it doesn't happen easily].'
Schrempp said the Japanese are asking for the help.
'It is wide open,' he said. '[Mitsubishi says] 1/8we need you, we want you, you are very welcome' - we get that also from government authorities, we get it from the union. And we get it from the very strong and powerful Mitsubishi group companies.'