BRUSSELS - DaimlerChrysler AG has drafted a set of internal brand rules to ensure that a Mercedes-Benz is never mistaken for a Jeep, a Chrysler, a Plymouth or a Dodge.
The so-called brand bible forbids platform sharing between Mercedes models and other brands. It also requires that Mercedes cars be developed and produced separately from other DaimlerChrysler products and that they be the first in the group to offer new core technology.
The 50-page 'Guidelines for DaimlerChrysler Brand Management' positions each of the six DaimlerChrysler makes, including Smart, and sets brand separation rules that apply to retail sales, product development, manufacturing and introduction of technology.
But its main job is to protect the Mercedes name and ease fears inside the former Daimler-Benz about the future of the three-pointed star.
'If we were going to develop a new Mercedes-Benz minivan it would be stupid not to use the expertise of Chrysler, which invented that type of car,' said Joachim Schmidt, senior vice president in charge of sales and marketing for Mercedes-Benz cars.
'But the final product would be a true Mercedes-Benz, developed and built to meet the specific brand characteristics, and it would not use a Chrysler platform,' he said.
SOME WERE WORRIED
Written by the group's senior brand managers, the brand bible will be 'the basis for all future products, product development, purchasing, production, sales and marketing operations,' Schmidt said in an interview.
'It gives us safety in dealing with each other,' he said. 'Internally we wanted to dissipate worries that arose after the merger about whether the (Mercedes-Benz) brand identity would suffer. The brand bible now clearly says, 'No, it will not suffer, it will be even stronger.''
The document was approved by DaimlerChrysler's management board late last year.
'We had to put some effort into finding the right expression for brands in terms that we could all agree on,' Schmidt said. 'But most of the time, it was no problem at all.'
DaimlerChrysler's strategy is to keep the brands 'well differentiated within the market and from each other,' according to the document. But it also stresses that 'the business strategy of DaimlerChrysler is to merge business processes and infrastructure for lower cost and higher profits.'
DaimlerChrysler brands can offer more than one product in the same market segment if they are specified uniquely. But as premium products, Mercedes-Benz and Jeep will not share platforms with each other.
Sharing parts will be decided case by case. 'Our goal is to share parts that are not visible to the customers; for example, electronic systems,' Schmidt said. 'But there will be no Mercedes-Benz engines shared with Chrysler or Jeep brands, and Mercedes-Benz will never use Chrysler engines. For Mercedes, engines are a crucial part of the brand identity.'
Sharing technology such as common-rail injection for diesel engines is possible. Other DaimlerChrysler brands may even borrow from the general design of Mercedes-Benz engines.
'But those engines would be worked over and adapted by the respective Chrysler brands, and they would also be branded in the brand's own name,' Schmidt said.
The brand bible requires separate dealer outlets in major markets and 'a clear brand distinction at the point of sale.' It also separates product development operations of the two sides of the company.
'Mercedes-Benz passenger cars will be developed and designed under Mercedes-Benz direction,' the document specifies.
Core innovations will be introduced on Mercedes cars first, though the guide says that 'sequenced introduction of those innovations within other DaimlerChrysler brands is intended and does not endanger the overall premium brand position of Mercedes-Benz.'
Production processes, such as stamping and painting, can be shared by Mercedes-Benz and other DaimlerChrysler brands as long as Mercedes-Benz engineering standards are met. But, Schmidt said, 'final assembly will always remain separate.'
However, production on the same line could be permitted when DaimlerChrysler hires an outside company to assemble vehicles, he said. In Graz, Austria, Steyr-Daimler-Puch Fahrzeugtechnik, a unit of Canada's Magna International Inc., is preparing to assemble the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Mercedes-Benz M class partly on the same line.
M-class production will be added in Graz in May. The Grand Cherokee and M-class sport-utilities will share the same conveyor system. However, the M class will leave the line at various points for assembly that is unique to that vehicle.
Schmidt said he and his top brand-management colleagues from other DaimlerChrysler brands already are working on the brands' futures.
The future program, which will include a long-term product plan, is scheduled to be completed within a few months. It will be based on an analysis of markets, trends and the perception of images and brands, Schmidt said.
'We want to more precisely distinguish the individual brands,' he said. 'But we will also show that brands and core values are dynamic. There is not only development potential but also a need to adapt brands to future demands.'