Automotive News Europe
STUTTGART, Germany - DaimlerChrysler AG Chairman Juergen Schrempp plans to remake the company's management board to speed the integration of the former Daimler-Benz AG and Chrysler Corp.
By year's end, Schrempp will cut several positions from the board and put a different executive in charge of each of five automotive product groups. Most of the groups combine former Chrysler Corp. and Mercedes-Benz brands.
Since the merger last November, DaimlerChrysler has been run like a holding company, with the former Daimler-Benz and the former Chrysler operating basically separately. The new structure reflects Schrempp's desire to accelerate the merger, said a senior DaimlerChrysler executive who asked not to be named.
'Schrempp is driven by his feeling that the integration process needs another boost,' said the executive. 'He realizes that he can only succeed in creating a one-company feeling by introducing truly transatlantic responsibilities.'
A DaimlerChrysler spokesman would not say whether changes are planned for the board of management.
'We earlier said integration would take no more than three years. There is no pressure for immediate action,' said Christoph Walther, senior vice president of communications.
Walther confirmed that the company's top 250 managers will meet in October, but he said it was a regularly scheduled meeting, a follow-up to the first such postmerger meeting, in Seville, Spain, last December.
The five automotive operating jobs will be organized by vehicle category: passenger cars; minivans; sport-utilities and pickups; light commercial vehicles; and heavy trucks and buses. Two other operating divisions are debis, the financial services unit, and Dasa, the aerospace division.
MANAGEMENT BOARD CUTS
The management board will be cut from 17 positions to 13 and eventually to 12 after Co-chairman Robert Eaton retires by 2001.
The change represents a major reshuffling of top executive jobs. At the time of the merger, DaimlerChrysler put the highest-level executives from each company on the management board.
'Some are very nervous,' said the executive. 'But everyone in the company, from the top down, knows that both the restructuring and the reduction in numbers have to happen.'
Former Chrysler managers will take at least two of the five automotive jobs and one or two of the four central staff board positions, sources say. Currently, seven of the 17 board members are former Chrysler executives.
Among central staff functions, only research and development, finance, personnel and purchasing will remain as management board positions.
Responsibility for corporate strategy and information technology will no longer be a board-level job.
Under German company law, called Aktienrecht, management board members are legally answerable to shareholders for company decisions. In addition, management board members enjoy greater prestige and usually earn more money than nonmembers.
STALLKAMP FACES CHANGES
The new structure will sweep away roles played by Tom Stallkamp and Juergen Hubbert. The two board members oversee most of the light-vehicle universe of the former Chrysler and DaimlerBenz, respectively. Hubbert now heads Mercedes-Benz and Smart passenger cars worldwide, while Stallkamp heads Chrysler, Plymouth, Jeep and Dodge passenger cars and trucks.
Other board members with responsibility over product include:
Jim Holden, head of global brand development of brands for the former Chrysler Corp. and head of sales and marketing operations for all DaimlerChrysler brands in North America.
Dieter Zetsche, brand czar of Mercedes-Benz and Smart and simultaneously responsible for sales and marketing of all DaimlerChrysler brands in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia/Pacific.
Tom Gale, head of product strategy and design for Chrysler passenger cars.
Their responsibilities will be reorganized under the five product group jobs.
Also disappearing from the board is a position that combines responsibility for Latin American sales and marketing and Chrysler truck operations, currently held by ex-Chrysler executive Theodor Cunningham.
AMERICANS AN ISSUE
Under the new structure, each vehicle group board member will have full responsibility for product development, production and sales and marketing.
Sources said Schrempp and Eaton have not decided who will occupy the new board positions.
'There are various factors to be taken into account,' said one insider. 'One is age, but there is also the necessity to be considerate in some decisions. Schrempp will pay a lot of attention to the feelings of his American partners and the self-respect of the American employees.
'For example,' he said, 'you cannot dispute their competence in the minivan and SUV segment, which were created by them. But there is no experience with light commercial vehicles and truck and bus operations on the former Chrysler side. It is also obvious that the passenger-car division would be headed by a former Daimler-Benz manager.'