Until last week there was no record of Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche waxing philosophical about the train wreck that was DaimlerChrysler. But as his company deepens its ties with Renault-Nissan the subject may have seemed unavoidable.
They were dueling duos back in the day: DaimlerChrysler, the merger of equals formed in 1998 and the Renault-Nissan alliance that followed a year later. The question back then was which was the more plausible partnership -- obsessively integrated DaimlerChrysler or the loosely linked Franco-Japanese tie-up? DaimlerChrysler appeared to have the edge. A common refrain was: "Forget about the French and Japanese working together."
Yet Renault and Nissan remain happily married while DaimlerChrysler divorced in 2007, and last week Zetsche turned introspective at the Frankfurt auto show.
Zetsche, a top Mercedes-Benz executive when the merger happened, was sent to run Chrysler in 2000.
"The marriage in heaven didn't stay in heaven," Zetsche conceded as he outlined Daimler's growing links to Renault-Nissan. He added that Daimler was "much better prepared" for its new affiliation "because of DaimlerChrysler."
"You learn from your success stories," he said, "but you most likely learn more from your failures."