DaimlerChrysler AG is too busy to buy a stake in a major Asian maker, such as financially troubled Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Chairman Robert Eaton said.
DaimlerChrysler, eager to grow in Asia, has three options: Slowly build a presence there on its own, form a joint venture or acquire companies, he said.
'I suspect one of the latter two is the most likely outcome,' Eaton said last week during a meeting with Automotive News staff members. 'But, fortunately, we've got a lot on our plate right now. We don't have to be in any big rush to do that. We clearly want to have a major position in that part of the world.'
So the company continues to talk with Nissan about a deal for its commercial truck unit, Nissan Diesel. Eaton said it is a 'fairly complex situation' and said a decision will be made after Jan. 1.
'While Asia's in tough shape right now, it's not going to be forever,' he said.
Eaton, who will serve as DaimlerChrysler chairman for up to three years with Juergen Schrempp and then retire, said the megamerger always has been about growth, but the new company has not set any optimum size.
'Long term, we want to be the best automobile transportation company in the world, but that doesn't mean the largest,' he said.
DaimlerChrysler wants a substantial presence around the world, but to get there it must grow in Asia, South America and Africa, Eaton said.
NO WORD ON DETROIT DIESEL
Asked if DaimlerChrysler is interested in making a bid for Detroit Diesel Corp., he said he did not know.
'I haven't been involved in any discussions on that,' Eaton said. 'I don't think there are any plans.'
DaimlerChrysler owns 20 percent of Detroit Diesel's common stock. Analysts say they have heard rumblings about a bid for Detroit Diesel.
Eaton also said:
DaimlerChrysler will begin a trans-Atlantic shuttle between Pontiac, Mich., and Stuttgart, Germany, in January. The Airbus plane will make three or four round trips a week and will be remodeled to seat 56 people comfortably.
Country managers will be named to handle sales and marketing activities in about 200 countries around the world.
DaimlerChrysler is pleased with its independent dealers and will not buy them out to launch any dramatic retail experiment. Ford Motor Co. and Saturn Corp. are buying out dealers.
DaimlerChrysler prefers to work with dealers who are willing to risk their capital, Eaton said, but the company is taking steps, such as its Five Star dealer certification program, to upgrade and improve the buying process.