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It’s DaimlerChrysler day

by Bill Cawthon on

A “merger of equals” was how Daimler-Benz CEO Jürgen Schrempp described the formation of DaimlerChrysler on May 7, 1998.

Nine years and seven days later, Daimler AG would sell the remains of Chrysler to Stephen Feinberg’s Cerberus Capital Management. Feinberg would then appoint Robert Nardelli as CEO to finish doing what Daimler had begun.

DaimlerChrysler sign

Robert Eaton, Chrysler’s Chairman and CEO, described by Fortune magazine as one of “history’s ten worst auto chiefs” sold Chrysler to Schrempp and then made an early exit from the company, retiring with a generous parting gift of millions of dollars in stock and options.

Thousands of Chrysler jobs were cut, several Chrysler plants were closed, and retail market share plummeted. Promised synergies never happened, the cultures clashed, and there was never a question of which company was “more equal.”

The architect of the debacle, Jürgen Schrempp, eventually lost his job, resigning in 2005. Unlike Eaton, Schrempp didn’t receive a golden parachute: he didn’t even get paid through the end of his contract. He now sits on various boards of directors including the Advisory Board of Deutsche Bank, though Deutsche Bank was one of the shareholders most unhappy with the DaimlerChrysler merger.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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