Daimler-Benz didn't buy Chrysler Corp. for its cool culture and car guys. It was a power play, pure and simple.
Chrysler was a set of brands, a US dealer network, capacity, a berth in the middle of the market, a slice of the American pie.
It had little to do with 'soft' issues, like supply chain management, platform teams and Chrysler's backs-against-the-wall team spirit - the things Tom Stallkamp stood for. It was more basic and brutal than that. Daimler-Benz had to buy Chrysler before someone else did. If the three keys to success are location, location and location, then Chrysler was a prime spot.
DaimlerChrysler was no merger of equals. It was no merger at all. It was a Jurgen Schrempp takeover.
'Stallkamp is a genius, but what has Schrempp ever done?' asked one critic after the popular former Chrysler president was purged.
True, Schrempp does not have a long list of automotive operating successes to his credit. He is something different - an enforcer, a calculating politician who climbed the corporate masthead with a knife between his teeth. He quickly rid the new company of dissidents. Now he is in a position to carve up competitors instead of rivals and dissenting voices in his own ranks.
Corporate politics are ugly, but a necessary tool for an organization. It is a way for companies to cleanse themselves, removing distractions and sacrificing old ways on the altar of individual careers.
It is also a training ground for leaders. If you can't win the internal battles, how do you expect to win the external ones? Indeed, the chief executives who have stumbled lately, like Bernd Pischetsrieder, did so largely because they weren't tough enough.
Schrempp is the most focused auto chief in the world - more than Jac Nasser, probably even more than Ferdinand Piëch. Now that he is in absolute command, his personal goals align perfectly with D/C's goals. He wants to head the biggest and best auto company in the world.
He is probably angered that cooler heads talked him out of buying Nissan. Now he watches as Renault's share price rises and Nissan's prospects improve. Schweitzer looks shrewder. Schrempp could have melted down Nissan's culture just as he has Chrysler's and he probably resents those inside D/C who opposed the acquisition. Like Stallkamp.
Stallkamp personified the old Chrysler in the new D/C. As the heir apparent to Bob Eaton, he was Schrempp's real American counterpart and therefore the closest thing to a rival.
What chance for Stallkamp? No chance at all.
'I'm the king of the snakes,' Schrempp once boasted.
Meanwhile, Jurgen Hubbert is king of the survivors. At Daimler-Benz he held the equivalent of Stallkamp's job at Chrysler -but is seven years older. He was expected to wilt under Stallkamp's strong light in the combined company. But Stallkamp is gone and Hubbert perseveres. He is a clever operator who has worked effectively alongside Werner Breitschwerdt, Werner Niefer, Helmut Werner and Jurgen Schrempp.
The peculiar combination of the selfless Hubbert and the cobra-like Schrempp works. The two Jurgens need each other. Schrempp is raw power; Hubbert the living, breathing embodiment of the company that is really still Mercedes-Benz.