Jim Holden, the new president of DaimlerChrysler in North America, had his coming-out party last week, meeting with reporters in Novi, Mich., and Las Vegas.
A year after Chrysler Corp.'s merger with Daimler-Benz AG, Holden, 48, wants to put the distractions of the merger behind him. The primary task now is competing with General Motors and Ford Motor Co., he said.
Here are his edited remarks from a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 2, in Novi.
How is morale in the company?
Clearly there has been some erosion of morale over the past couple of years. We didn't go into this merger with a play book. I think we lost a little bit of our ability to communicate regularly and informally with our troops. In mergers or change of any sort, the absence of communication is often filled with fear and concern. My message going forward is that it's OK. The merger's done. We're thrilled with our position in that merger. Now let's quit looking at Stuttgart and the merger as the primary objective, because we're past the critical point.
Now that you are over the hump, will morale improve and slow defections?
Probably. I don't see morale as at a critical level. But I think it should always be a priority to make sure we are communicating effectively. With effective communications comes improved morale. In terms of employee turnover, it has been minimal. It has been very visible, but it has been minimal. We compete in a world market. We're going to lose a few people.
Is this truly a merger of equals?
If you look at revenue and profitability, clearly we're a huge portion of this company. The conclusion that we've come to as a board is: Get over it. It doesn't matter. We are one company and within that company, there are a lot of businesses and industries represented
Within the automotive group, there's no real discussion any more of who stands for what, who married up, who married down. That whole scenario, as far as we're concerned, is behind us.
Will the U.S. division really be independent under the new structure?
I'm not trying to be independent. I'm trying to be fast. We're clearly not independent. We're part of DCX (the parent company), and that's not a heritage that anybody's trying to deny. I don't see, nor have I felt in the first year, any undue meddling or restrictions in this governance process.
What would you do differently?
Not a lot. I think I would have jumped on some of the internal communication issues a little earlier and clarified roles and expectations. Maybe shame on us. But none of us had a play book. We weren't sure where it was going.
How much more work do you need to do to rebuild your credibility on Wall Street?
I think the third-quarter results spoke for themselves. The general feedback has been pretty good in terms of the way that the information was presented.