I like Dieter Zetsche, the CEO of DaimlerChrysler. He did a great job on his first tour of duty in the United States at Freightliner and was just what was needed at Chrysler after the merger.
His successor at the Chrysler group is one of the top automobile executives in the country. I've known Tom LaSorda for a long time and watched him first at General Motors and now at Chrysler.
They have a great team, and by all indications they have Chrysler on the right track. It is making money and introducing the right cars. But it isn't part of the American Big 3. Those days are gone forever.
Chrysler is a subsidiary of a German company, and although it has a lot of UAW workers, it is not much different from companies such as Toyota Motor North America Inc., which also is a subsidiary of a foreign company.
The United States has two big automobile companies that are owned and operated here: Ford Motor Co. and General Motors.
So when executives from Ford and GM go to Washington, why does Tom LaSorda go along? Shouldn't Jim Press of Toyota be invited, too?
We have two U.S. automakers that Congress doesn't seem interested in helping. Along with the subsidiaries of four foreign-based automakers -- DaimlerChrysler, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. -- they control the U.S. market with nearly a 90 percent share.
It seems strange to include the good folks from Chrysler in an invitation to visit the White House or Congress.
One difference between the Chrysler group and Toyota's subsidiaries here is that Daimler-Benz simply bought Chrysler, while Toyota has been building and investing in plants and people for the last four decades. One has the UAW in all its plants; the other has the UAW in only one factory, which is a joint venture. But the Chrysler group's and Toyota Motor Sales' shares of the U.S. market are about the same, and they are fighting for third place.
GM is a big player in Germany. But GM has owned Opel for 75 years. Ford is a big player in Germany, but it built up the business with investments in plants and equipment.
I'm convinced that federal officials wouldn't know how to help GM and Ford even if they wanted to. But if they want to do something, keep it at GM and Ford.
Whether you like it or not, the rest of the players in the United States are subsidiaries of foreign companies. It's the way things are.
So let's stop kidding ourselves.