Juergen Schrempp issued a simple challenge: Go look at what I really told the Financial Times.
Last November, the Financial Times reported that Schrempp said he hid his true intentions from Chrysler executives when he told them the Daimler-Benz/Chrysler deal would be a 'merger of equals.'
According to the Financial Times, Schrempp said the Chrysler executives wouldn't have agreed to the deal if he had said from the beginning that Chrysler would be a division.
The story hurt and angered many executives and staffers at the Chrysler group. Many felt betrayed by Schrempp's statements. But at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit in January, Schrempp implied that the newspaper misquoted him.
'The Financial Times was kind enough to put on the Internet what I really said,' Schrempp said.
So what does the transcript reveal? It looks like the Financial Times got it right. Here is an unedited transcript of that portion of the interview:
Financial Times: Tell us a little about the execution at Chrysler. I mean that's where I've read criticism first. It started off with an idea of being a merger of equals and an integration and that hasn't really happened. That the strategy still looks good in the way you describe it, the execution has been poor. Is there anything in that comment?
Schrempp: Well when you look at it from the outside you might come to that conclusion. This is a fair comment. Except that me being a chess player I normally don't talk about the second and third moves.
The structure we have now where Chrysler is a division, like Mercedes cars or like Mercedes trucks, was always the structure I wanted. We had to go a little bit in a round about way but that has to do with negotiations and with psychology and things like that.
So from the outside it looked that we started to with two head offices and a merger of equals, etc. And now it has changed direction, and that's why I say it's fair comment because that's what we have done. But that's precisely what I wanted to do. So I'm quite happy the way it is. I have a good management team there and Chrysler is now really represented by the chief executive officer who is Jim Holden.
FT: What does that imply? It's really represented by the CEO?
Schrempp: When we sat in New York (in merger talks) we said you know, I mean for psychological reasons we need as many Americans as Germans on the board of management. We excluded activities Chrysler doesn't have like aerospace etc. and then we had equal representation. But it was clear to Bob Eaton (the former Chrysler chairman) and myself at the time this is what we call the start structure and then we would move eventually to what we have today.
The problem is often (like this) for us when we do something like this. With Chrysler and the former Daimler-Benz, at that time if I had gone out and said look, eventually Chrysler will be a division of the DaimlerChrysler group everybody (on their side) would have said no way we will do a deal like that. So, that's why your perception is absolutely correct.
You say look they've started that way and now they are here. That's precisely what I wanted, I have the structure I want because we will run this company as an integrated automotive company. We will have Mercedes, Mercedes trucks, Chrysler, then Mitsubishi and one day another one. Only by doing that do you have the chance where, for example, the automotive council (the senior operating management group) can really get them together.