FRANKFURT - Despite a weekend of trans-Atlantic bonding, some German executives were unsettled after a DaimlerChrysler AG retreat in Seville, Spain, Dec. 11 and 12.
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 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, CEO of Mercedes-Benz of North America Inc., will take strategic brand direction from Zetsche in Germany but will report directly to Holden, executive vice president of DaimlerChrysler Corp., in Auburn Hills, Mich.
'There is potential conflict in this new structure,' said an insider at DaimlerChrysler AG's Stuttgart headquarters.
Senior marketing executives will adopt Chrysler's famed 'matrix' system of cross-functional job assignments. Along with his sales operations duties, Zetsche also will 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, in charge of commercial vehicles at the former Daimler-Benz AG, will be responsible for the commercial vehicle brands.
'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.