LAS VEGAS -- DaimlerChrysler Chairman-designate Dieter Zetsche says he will break down "intangible barriers" that have prevented cooperation between Mercedes-Benz and the Chrysler group.
In fact, Zetsche says, the two organizations already have merged one function. Advanced electronic engineering has been integrated, Zetsche told reporters during Chrysler group dealer meetings here on Thursday.
Problems with complex vehicle electrical systems have been a key factor staining Mercedes' quality reputation in recent years.
Despite reports in a German magazine that the groups will share engines and platforms, beginning with a joint next-generation Mercedes M-class and Jeep Grand Cherokee platform, Zetsche refused to give any other specific areas of cooperation.
Even so, he made it clear that he has little patience with the standoffish attitudes that have kept luxury brand Mercedes from doing joint work with the Chrysler group's mainstream brands -- Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep.
Though brand integrity has to be protected, Zetsche said, such concerns most often "are just used as an excuse to build that kind of barrier."
With intense industry competition, he added, "Everyone understands on the Mercedes side, whatever can help us out, these things we better use."
Pressure on Mercedes to use companywide resources is only likely to grow as Zetsche prods the luxury brand to improve quality with fewer employees. He wants to cut 8,500 Mercedes jobs, saying the brand is using "far too many resources." If voluntary buyouts don't work, Zetsche added, Mercedes' German union contract allows it to reduce work hours and pay to get the desired savings.
Cutting the work force and simplifying procedures can actually enhance quality efforts, he said.
"It is a complete misconception that reducing costs and (improving) quality is a contradiction," he said.
Touching on several other topics, Zetsche said:
You may e-mail Dave Guilford at