Rüdiger Grube keeps the DaimlerChrysler brand bible locked up in a safe in his office.
What may sound like a thick, leather-bound book with gold lettering on the cover is in fact a plain A4-size ledger. The top page carries the signatures of all six members of DaimlerChrysler's elite Executive Automotive Committee.
A red stamp on the cover warns that the contents are 'strictly confidential' and 'highly explosive.' The bible contains in-depth details of every DaimlerChrysler brand.
Grube, 50, manages the activities of the Executive Automotive Committee, which was set up just over a year ago to improve cooperation and efficiency between DaimlerChrysler's wide-ranging brands.
The Committee is a powerful, close-knit body of DaimlerChrysler veterans. It acts as a control center for the group's worldwide automotive activities.
DaimlerChrysler Chairman Jürgen Schrempp wants to more than double the group's operating profit this year - and the Executive Automotive Committee will play a pivotal role in helping Schrempp strive for that target.
Grube's official title is deputy member of the DaimlerChrysler board of management with responsibility for corporate development. Before taking up his present position last October, Grube was DaimlerChrysler senior vice president for corporate development, responsible for corporate strategy, corporate e-business, and mergers and acquisitions.
In 2001, DaimlerChrysler had an operating profit of 1.35 billion, down from 5.17 billion the previous year.
Beginning with the merger of the former Daimler-Benz with Chrysler in 1998, and followed by such moves as the purchases of stakes in Mitsubishi and Hyundai, and the acquisition of Canadian truck maker Western Star, Daimler-Chrysler's portfolio has expanded to 13 brands.
These acquisitions and a restructuring of Chrysler - which cost 3 billion in 2001 alone - have reduced DaimlerChrysler's cash reserves. At the same time, the group's shares have been under pressure on international stock markets.
The Executive Automotive Committee was created to help remedy these problems. Once a month, its members meet to decide how to speed up the integration of acquisitions into DaimlerChrysler, increase synergies, and raise sales and profits.
The Committee is 'an important and powerful tool' that will help achieve Schrempp's financial goals, Grube says.
DaimlerChrysler's sales were 152.9 billion last year, down from 162.4 billion in 2000.
Grube describes his role in modest terms.
'I organize the meetings, coordinate the different interests and prepare the agendas for meetings with my team,' he says.
Grube's staff consists solely of young people and he expects total commitment.
'I impose high standards to make sure that the issues discussed by the Committee are well researched,' he says.
Besides Schrempp and Grube, the Committee consists of:
* Jürgen Hubbert, head of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, Maybach and Smart
* Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler president and CEO
* Eckhard Cordes, board member responsible for commercial vehicles
* Manfred Bischoff, in charge of aerospace and industrial nonautomotive activities.
With its focus more on strategy than on day-to-day activities, the Executive Automotive Committee exerts enormous influence within DaimlerChrysler. And the six members, long accustomed to working together, say they can make decisions quickly. The Committee effectively makes key strategic recommendations that the DaimlerChrysler management board simply needs to rubber-stamp.
Cordes represents the van sector. Heavy trucks do not yet have a representative in the group. Bischoff, on the other hand, is the point of contact for Mitsubishi Motors and its CEO Rolf Eckrodt.
The Committee, therefore, consists solely of high-ranking Germans. Secretive monthly meetings are held alternately in Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA, and Stuttgart.
Each meeting has a rigid agenda, with Schrempp presiding. For example, at the Committee's first meeting in March 2001, the six members discussed how Mitsubishi and Chrysler can work together, and how Mercedes-Benz can provide technological assistance to the group.
The discipline is paying off, says Grube. Forty-five projects have been defined so far, and 19 are virtually completed. A further 12 issues should be addressed in the current year.
As a result, savings of 'many billions of euros' are expected, says Grube, while declining to be more specific.
'An early task for the Executive Automotive Committee was the production of the strictly guarded brand bible,' says Grube.
The brand bible serves as a guideline for the Committee's work. It helps focus members' thoughts on brand positioning and identify where there are potential savings to be made in product development, purchasing, sales and marketing.
The Committee is constantly looking for new gaps within segments and fresh opportunities in the markets DaimlerChrysler is active in.
The Committee members say they are not worried by the overlapping and blurring of the auto industry's market sectors.
'The only question is, into which price range the vehicles should be put,' says Grube.
In the brand bible, all new DaimlerChrysler models are listed in a precise launch timetable that extends to 2010.
Grube says DaimlerChrysler - and the Mercedes-Benz brand in particular - is turning away from a general platform strategy.
'If a customer buys a premium car, he doesn't expect it to include parts used in other vehicles,' he says.
Grube says DaimlerChrysler's most important principle is that 'Mercedes and the other brands of the group will never be unified under one roof.'
The Chrysler Crossfire, which is being built on the Mercedes SLK platform, will remain an exception, he insists.
But there will be sharing of parts between DaimlerChrysler brands besides Mercedes.
'Thirty percent of components can easily be bundled together,' says Grube.
And the Committee has found another way for DaimlerChrysler to save money: 70 percent of the cost of building a car occurs during the development process, claims Grube.
'Even if the supplier does handstands, we will not get costs reduced without a strict product development process,' he says.
As a result, the Executive Automotive Committee recently recommended the formation of 'component teams' made up of product development staff and suppliers.
'Cost savings are a vast topic,' says Grube. 'The possibilities appear to be limitless.'