After last week's top management changes, there may be no one left inside DaimlerChrysler who can stand up to Juergen Schrempp.
Schrempp is living dangerously as he consolidates his power base and surrounds himself with an airtight inner circle of loyal lieutenants.
The 59-year-old CEO has replaced two highly respected senior executives with two young loyalists he has nurtured and personally pulled up the ranks.
Critics say the two most important reality checks on DaimlerChrysler's management board are gone -- Mercedes-Benz boss Juergen Hubbert and DaimlerChrysler CFO Manfred Gentz. Financial analysts are uneasy with the changes.
"This is Schrempp taking charge," says a top analyst who asked not to be named.
Wolfgang Bernhard, 43, has vaulted from the No. 2 position at the Chrysler group to the No. 1 job at Mercedes-Benz. Bernhard replaces Hubbert, 64, head of Mercedes' passenger-car group since the late 1980s and one of the most revered figures in the industry.
Bodo Uebber, 44, becomes DaimlerChrysler's new CFO. He replaces Gentz, 62, a longtime thorn in Schrempp's side because of his conservative style. Uebber previously was head of DaimlerChrysler Services, the company's finance arm.
Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler's supervisory board gave Schrempp a huge vote of confidence by extending his contract for three years, until 2008. He was named CEO of Daimler-Benz in 1995, three years before Daimler-Benz AG bought Chrysler Corp.
Hubbert and Bernhard will run Mercedes jointly starting May 1. Bernhard takes full control in August, and Hubbert will stay on as head of DaimlerChrysler's executive automotive committee. The committee oversees the global integration of Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai.