The merger of two airbag industry giants has claimed a victim: Fred Musone, Autoliv Inc.'s chief operating officer.
Last week, the newly formed safety systems supplier announced that its No. 2 executive had resigned.
Autoliv Inc., the world's largest producer of automotive safety systems, was created last October by the merger of Autoliv AB of Sweden and Morton International Inc. of Chicago.
Autoliv Inc. said in a statement that it had not found a successor to Musone, who was president of Morton Automotive before the merger.
Musone could not be reached for comment.
Industry sources speculate that Musone was discouraged when Autoliv's board denied him the CEO position he originally had been promised. Instead, the company tapped Gunnar Bark for the job, relegating Musone to second in command.
'2 STRONG GUYS'
'You've got two very strong guys in charge of Autoliv and Morton,' said one senior executive at a rival company. Maybe there wasn't room for the two of them.'
In an interview with Automotive News, Bark said Autoliv's board decided it needed a European insider to run the company. About 55 percent of Autoliv's sales are in Europe, Bark noted.
'Europe is a much more complicated market, with many countries, languages and producers,' Bark said. 'It is very difficult to come to Europe if you are not an insider.'
Although North America accounts for 35 percent of Autoliv's sales, the Swedish company already was doing business with each of the Big 3 before the merger. Thus, Musone's knowledge of the North American market was less crucial, Bark suggested.
AUTOLIV IN CONTROL
As the larger partner in the merger - with 53.5 percent of the new company's equity - Autoliv controlled the selection of the new company's top executives.
Musone's sudden departure hinted at continuing management shakeups in the wake of the merger. Paul Charlety, Autoliv's CEO before the merger, was to be the new company's president and chief operating officer. Now, both Musone and Charlety are gone.
Despite the management shuffle, Autoliv's reorganization will proceed quickly, Bark said.
Morton has spun off its salt and specialty chemicals business, and Autoliv has set up its new world headquarters in London. European operations are based in Stockholm, and the U.S. headquarters is in Ogden, Utah.
The company employs 15,000 people worldwide, with annual sales of $3.2 billion.
Separately, Autoliv has formed a joint venture to design a crash-avoidance radar system. Its 50-50 partner is Celsius, a Swedish industrial group that has developed military radar.
The radar would be connected to the vehicle's cruise control and would determine the speed and position of vehicles ahead. It also would serve as a pre-crash warning for airbags, seat-belt pre-tensioners and other safety devices.