By on June 9, 2015

DC Hoods Courtesy cnbc.com

My 25-plus years as a Big Time Auto Industry Executive afforded me many memorable moments. It would be difficult to single out one example, but I may be the only person on earth who has shaken hands with both Soichiro Honda and Derek Kreindler.

As for the low point of my career, there is no contest: the morning of May 7, 1998, four months after I joined Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation. That was the day it was announced Daimler-Benz had merged with the Chrysler Corporation.

I’ll never forget watching the news that morning, as Daimler CEO Jurgen Schrempp and Chrysler CEO Bob Eaton were all smiles during their press conference, deeming the alliance a “marriage from Heaven.” I was slack-jawed. I was dumbfounded. I was the RCA Victor dog with my head cocked quizzically at the television set.

I, also, was not alone. There were reports of Mercedes-Benz USA executives crying in the halls that morning. How could we do this? Didn’t we learn anything from our previous tie-up with Studebaker?

Much would be written in the following years about the culture clash between the two companies and how it contributed to their demerger in 2007. The press gleefully wrote about how the “lean and mean Chrysler” was at odds with the “slow-moving, bureaucratic Benz.” When it came to the resultant hookup between Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation and Chrysler Financial, those roles were reversed.

While it would be several years before Schrempp would admit the alliance was not a merger but in reality a takeover of Chrysler by Daimler, Chrysler Financial (CF) was in charge of Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation (MBCC) from day one on the U.S. financial side. On the surface this made sense as CF serviced ten times the number of dealers and employed around eleven times the number of people than did MBCC.

The two banks became DaimlerChrysler Services North America and we would move our U.S headquarters from Atlanta to CF’s home, the decrepit former American Motors building in Detroit, while construction started on a permanent facility. Thus, the only American employees to truly merge and work side by side in America were us financial folks. The respective auto sales and distribution arms in Montvale, NJ and Detroit probably never even spoke.

I was hired by a year-old division of MBCC called debis Affinity, named after the worldwide financial arm of Mercedes-Benz, Daimler-Benz InterServices AG or debis. Located in the MBCC customer service and remarketing facility in Fort Worth, TX, our mission was to provide retail loans and leases to customers of non-Mercedes dealers as well as floor plan and capital loans to the retailers themselves.

DC merger signing courtesy AP

“Jurgen, did I tell you about the millions you are about to lose on off-lease Grand Cherokees?”

Starting with a clean sheet of paper, we developed a corporate culture of transparency and employee empowerment. An example of this culture occurred each morning at 9 a.m. when we would turn off the phones and gather together in a “huddle” to review the previous day’s business news and talk strategy. These lighthearted meetings would be led each morning by a different team member. We were completely transparent with our monthly profit numbers. If they were published on a day that an entry level employee led the huddle, he or she would present the numbers to the group.

Chrysler folks thought our culture and huddle were hokey, but it worked: we built a loyal, tight-knit group of employees. I worked in field sales at American Honda during the go-go ’80s and ’90s; working at debis was more fun.

Thanks to our excellent service levels and a field sales staff heavy with former retail car people, we grew quickly, signing up retailers representing all franchises. We were especially welcomed by Chrysler dealers who were not shy to express their disgust with CF’s inconsistent credit buying practices, their jumping in and out of leasing, and their overall poor dealer support.

Our philosophies could not have been more different from those at CF. At MBCC and debis we considered the dealers to be our partners; CF loathed their dealer body. To be fair, at any one time probably 15 percent of Chrysler dealers were on the verge of going out of business, while another 15 percent were dedicated to stealing as much money as possible from CF and from Chrysler. Dealers falsifying customer information on credit applications to gain loan or lease approvals occurred far more often with Chrysler than Mercedes-Benz retailers.

2000DaewooLeganza courtesy chicagoautoshow.com

Leganza! Mercedes-Benz Credit’s debis Division provided financing for U. S. Daweoo customers.

The majority of CF employees we met were motivated and as passionate about the Chrysler brand as we were about Mercedes-Benz. The problem was their layers of bureaucracy prevented any task from being accomplished on a timely basis. In contrast, we were lean enough to operate on dealer and customer time – in other words, “right now.”

A perfect example was CF’s remarketing processes for capturing and disposing of off-lease vehicles. MBCC was recognized as having the best practices in the industry – dealer and customer friendly – while maximizing returns at auction. MBCC had one centralized office for remarketing; CF passed off the responsibility to its dozens of regional sales offices. We quickly learned despite all their people assigned to CF remarketing, many were not contacting clients to arrange their vehicles return, thus, customers were happily driving for free for months after their leases were due, assuring the vehicles would be returned at far below residual value. The concept of pitching off-lease clients to buy another Chrysler product was not on their radar at all.

It was quickly decided that the MBCC remarketing department would take over CF remarketing. Our first step was to find these thousands units missing in the CF bureaucracy. Time was ticking as CF was facing two hundred thousand Grand Cherokees coming off leases with payments as low as $199/month that were about to hit the auctions. The potential residual losses were staggering. The losses would end up averaging over $2,500 per unit. We always wondered if Daimler was informed of the situation during merger negotiations.

Infiniti dumped Nissan Motor Acceptance for debis to provide leases for their customers.

Infiniti dumped Nissan Acceptance for debis to provide leases for their customers.

In 1999, debis shocked the industry when we were chosen by Japanese luxury automaker Infiniti to provide factory subvented leases for their customers in their Western and Central Regions. Infiniti’s captive finance arm, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation, was out of money and the bank’s dealer satisfaction rankings were even lower than those of Chrysler Financial. Infiniti also admitted that they did not have the channels to dispose of off-lease vehicles.

On the surface this may appear to be Mercedes-Benz helping a competitor’s sales but it is actually just the opposite. The customer had already chosen an Infiniti by the time we were involved. We would profit on the leases as opposed to Nissan capturing that money. We’d also have control of that customer at lease end, with the hopes that their great experience with us might lead them to buy a Mercedes-Benz product next time. At one point, debis was also the leading lessor of Lexus RX300s in several markets on the East Coast.

Four outlying automakers also chose debis to serve as their captive lender, all drawn in by the prestige of being associated with the three-pointed star:

Daewoo: The Korean automaker may have built crappy cars, but their retail paper performed great. The Daewoo people also were by far the easiest to work with among all of our OEM relationships.

Lamborghini: We had the pleasure of working with one of the great automotive crooks of our era, North American Lamborghini distributor Vic Keuylian, who went from hanging with Hollywood celebrities to losing the distributorship to a guilty plea for wire fraud for selling $12M worth of Lamborghinis and stiffing Volkswagen Credit on them. I recall we did some Lambo leases for actor Nicolas Cage.

Grand+Opening+Lamborghini+Calabasas+Arrivals+4LgOcYOPgsEl Courtesy zimbio.com

debis client and former Lamborghini distributor Vic Keuylian with actress Kristen Bell.

Panoz: I am not sure if we actually ever financed a single one of their sports cars but we did get to visit their Georgia headquarters and drive some of their vehicles at Road Atlanta – so the relationship was worth it.

Lotus: I do not think we ended up doing much business with this brand either, but they were also located in Atlanta so we could justify our boondoggles to Panoz by visiting them.

In three years, debis had become wildly successful. Besides the OEM accounts, we had signed up 1,600 dealers and were close to overtaking Chase in several markets as the top non-captive automotive lender.

In early 2000, our managing director was tapped to develop DaimlerChrysler’s online auto financing site. He was replaced by a Chrysler “lifer” who was openly disdainful of debis. His actions verified what was long rumored to be true: CF senior managers only communicated to employees one band level below them and all other workers were not to approach them. I was marketing manager at the time and don’t recall ever having a conversation with the man. Our independence and our unique culture began to slip away.

DC Benz sign Courtesy 2.bp.blogspot.com

Soon after, rumors began to swirl that debis was going to be disbanded. When the COO of DaimlerChrysler Financial, a long-time CF man, assured us this was not the case, we figured we we were toast. We were correct: Chrysler bombed debis at dawn on December 7 – Pearl Harbor Day – in 2000. The reason given for our closing was due to the competitive nature of the non-captive lending business as well as duplication of efforts with Chrysler dealers. In my opinion, the truth was that Chrysler Financial hated our guts due to their brand partner being taken over by Daimler, they were tired of hearing from Chrysler dealers about our superlative service levels, and they simply could not understand the empowering (and profitable) debis culture. The news of our shutting down made the front page of Automotive News.

debis folks were devastated – but there was a bright side: to the company’s credit, all 64 debis employees were offered positions within the company, the majority on the Chrysler side, a few on the Mercedes-Benz side.

In 2007, the crazies at Cerberus bought Chrysler from us (during a recession!). We had paid $35 billion for Chrysler and sold them for $8 billion. I likened the loss to the two-year residual value of a Chrysler Pacifica minivan. MBCC was quickly reborn as Mercedes-Benz Financial Services (MBFS). The Chrysler financing arm also became part of Cerberus and would eventually be bought by Canada’s TD Bank in 2011.

MBFS Logo Courtesy linkedin

In the end, the damage done was the value of the millions of wasted man hours learning Chrysler’s systems and processes we could have dedicated to improving our products and services for Mercedes-Benz customers and dealers. The amount of money spent to build new Detroit and Fort Worth facilities for the merger and a second set for the demerger was staggering.

To be fair, a lot of good did come out of the merger on the financial services side. Thanks to Chrysler’s powerful human resources department, our benefits were far better than before the alliance. MBFS also became a much more diversified workplace thanks to Chrysler’s influence. Some of the talented leaders of the current MBFS came from Chrysler, most being managers who were considered “rebels” on the domestic side. The MBFS headquarters remained in Detroit where we were able to draw from the city’s deep, laid-off automotive talent pool for years to come.

The debate will rage on as to whether Daimler-Benz nearly killed the Chrysler Corporation, but in one small corner of their financial services division it was Chrysler who dealt the deathblow to a vibrant and vital Mercedes-Benz operation.

Chronicling this story has made me decide to amend my opening statement: the day in May 2007 when the DaimlerChrysler demerger became official, and I was safely on the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services side, was the single best moment of my automotive career.

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52 Comments on “A Different Perspective On The DaimlerChrysler Merger...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Interesting perspective.

    As to the question of whether Mercedes killed or helped Chrysler, the answer has to be: it did both, but the bad definitely outweighed the good.

    On the one hand, we have Mercedes lending platforms or components for two absolutely key products: the Chrysler 300 / Dodge Charger, and the current Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’m sure Sergio Marchionne shudders to think where FCA would be without the GC.

    But then we have the wholesale, utter craptastic-izing of the midsize and compact lines. Yes, the market was and is moving to CUVs, but anyone who doesn’t sell a decent compact and midsize car is going to fail, and fail hard – those should be your volume sellers. And for the better part of six or seven model years, Dodge and Chrysler had utter sh*t to sell in this category (in fairness, the Avenger and Sebring / 200 became better late in their lives, but they were never really competitive). Worse yet, the influx of utter sh*t to sell came right when the economy turned bad. So, not only did their sales of SUVs and trucks take a massive downturn, they had nothing to sell people who wanted something more economical.

    I don’t think the magnitude of this failure can be overestimated. The decision to build the meat of the company’s lineup on cheap, uncompetitive platforms not only devastated the company – for all practical purposes, it was like shoving a nuclear weapon up Chrysler’s backside and detonating. Not only did it murder sales numbers right as the recession started, it meant Dodge and Chrysler would have a huge hole to work their way out of once better product came on line. We’re seeing the effects of that now.

    On balance? I’m going with “Mercedes killed Chrysler.” I don’t think there’s much doubt about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      Without Daimler, the 300/Charger/Challenger/Magnum probably wouldn’t have happened. Chrysler would have most likely stuck with cab-forward FWD cars.

      The Grand Cherokee/Durango would be around, but different. Better, worse? Impossible to tell.

      I agree that Daimler did suck the life out of Chrysler though. When the economy tanked, independently Chrysler would have been hit as all the big 3 were, but the damage wouldn’t have been as bad. They probably still would have ended up merging with Fiat.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The LX cars were done design wise long before Daimler entered the picture. From the get go the LH cars were designed to be produced in FWD, AWD and RWD versions. The problem was they ran out of money and couldn’t afford to tool up for the AWD transaxle and the rear diff.

        When Daimler entered the picture they had already dusted off the files for the AWD transaxle RWD transmission and the rear diff and were ready to go to tooling. When Daimler took over the few engineers that didn’t get the ax were assigned to redesign it to accept Daimler power train components. So had Daimler showed up not only would have the LX cars happened they would have made it to market sooner.

        Fact is that Chrysler nearly sucked the life out of Daimler which is why they put the various parts of them up for sale shortly after the acquisition. Note Daimler was long gone other than toting the note signed by Cerebus when they bought it and contracts to supply those Daimler parts used in the LX and some other Chrysler branded vehicles before the financial melt down was in full swing.

        It is hard to say just how bad of a position they would have been in had they never been a part of Daimler and had they not been acquired by Cerebus. Cerebus certainly did a fair amount of damage and set them up for bankruptcy and poor future sales.

        Their plan was the typical pump and dump scheme. Pump up sales with even higher loss pricing and leases and “warranty for life”. Then use various tactics to keep the warranty costs low, from outright denial of claims, to punishing dealers who submitted claims and finally the most brilliant of them all stopping production/ordering of parts needed to fulfill those warranties. Meanwhile purge the payroll of people that weren’t required for day to day operations (engineers and designers).

        In theory they would show increasing sales, lowered cost of operations and overhead making investors snap up the IPO. In theory the big losses from the sub-vented leases, the costs of warranty claims and the drop in sales due to pissed off customers and the fact that they couldn’t keep selling vehicles at a loss would be far enough in the future that they will have had time to dump all of their holdings in Chrysler.

        • 0 avatar
          Timtoolman

          I read somewhere that Cerberus was going to shut down the factory that was being built to develop/build the new Pentastar engine, which at the time, was still being called Phoenix. I think they’ve built in excess of 5 million of them, and with nary a blurb about reliability issues. Unlike the V-6’s they were putting in cars, this engine has been a gem. I can’t say enough bad things about Cerberus.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          When Diamler took over, Chrysler had a little over $4 billion in cash reserves. Most of that went to Mercedes after the merger. The money was there and set aside for new products and new versions of existing models.

      • 0 avatar

        But the LX platform was a direct descendant of the LH “cab forward” platform, which had longitude-mounted engines and which were designed to accept either FWD or RWD drivetrains. Mercedes-Benz bits were used on the suspension, transmission and some switchgear, but I wouldn’t say that Daimler was heavily depended upon in terms of physical resources.

      • 0 avatar
        PentastarPride

        I think I would have preferred the cab-forward LH to stick around over the LX, with updates and refreshes of course. To me, it’s much more attractive and Chrysler practically owned the cab-forward look.

        If Chrysler kept it around I could imagine that it would have beat Tesla and the Model S to the punch design-wise. I always think of the Model S as what the LH Intrepid/Concorde would have been (with an internal combustion engine, of course).

        The only LX I’ve even remotely cared for was the 2011-current 300. I never liked the Charger or the Magnum, and I didn’t like the gangmobile stigma the first 300 had. I’d take an Intrepid over the Charger any day if I could get a new one that stayed true to the design. I think it would have been nice if the LH stuck around to get the 3.6L/Hemi in a RWD configuration.

        • 0 avatar
          nrd515

          If the cab forward design had stuck around, I would never have even considered the Charger I bought in ’07, and the Challenger that replaced it. RWD, FWD, it didn’t matter, I wasn’t going to drive anything that looked like one of them. I wasn’t crazy about the looks of the Charger, but compared to the cab forward cars, it was a work of art.

      • 0 avatar
        motormouth

        “The Grand Cherokee/Durango would be around, but different. Better, worse? Impossible to tell.”

        Worse. Much worse. After MB had reworked the Grand Cherokee, the number of welds per vehicle had increased from 3,000 to 5,500.

    • 0 avatar
      Timtoolman

      I am inclined to agree, despite Mr. Lynch’s allegations. Yes, the 300/Charger are probably two examples of a successful tie-up (along with the Wrangler/Unlimited pair), but there are so many that were unsuccessful. The much-decried Sebring clones were products of MB, as was the Compass, Patriot, Nitro and Caliber, AND the Grand Cherokee that is under investigation by NHTSA. That GC may have been engineered by Chryco, but it was built under the auspices of MB. And don’t forget the poorly-timed Durango/Aspen pair- created during a gas crisis where the pump price exceeded $4.00/gal. Whose idea what that?

      I recall getting my ’05 Ram 1500 and loving the HEMI, but when my friend bought the ’06, I thought the interior had been changed to Tupperware. It is horrible and cheap as can come. When Fiat took over (or was given control) the interiors were the first thing they improved on, and in a big way. My ’15 Wrangler’s interior is far better than what originally came with the new platform in ’07.

      As much as I disagree with the way the Obama administration took over Chryco and GM (and wonder just how legal some of the machinations were), it likely saved Chrysler. My opinion- Eaton sold out, Lasorda was a lapdog for DCX, Cerberus was (charitably) inept at best. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of other horror stories from both sides of the fence, but it seems to me that Daimler, with its cost-cutting, was (as my old boss would say) “trying to SAVE Chrysler into prosperity.”

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      I’m a bit surprised we’ve gone this far into discussing the Daimler-Chrysler merger without mentioning Mitsubishi.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Shouldn’t “debis” be capitalized? I was thinking this was the name of your former firm.

  • avatar
    Andy

    Interesting read. I always wondered what they did at the Mercedes building over there at Alliance. Apparently they get to drive some nice company cars!

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Very interesting perspective from a critical side of the business. Every time you wonder why BMW keeps shattering sales records despite a whole generation of mediocre product, remember how important financial services is. I’m not surprised to hear that pre-merger CF couldn’t find 200,000 Grand Cherokees.

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      I just looked at a BMW 320i with a 62% residual value on a 36-month lease. With that bit of financial sleight of hand, it’s cheaper to lease than a Golf GTI.

      It’s a hell of a lot easier to make a $35k car lease like a $25k car than to engineer the latter to feel as expensive as the former!

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        This is true only so long as the residuals hold up or the manufacturer is willing to underwrite the difference. The 328i has been remarkably successful in the former. We’ll have to see about the 320i.

      • 0 avatar
        Boff

        It works for BMW because many people are willing to buy or lease a 3 year-old BMW (that the CPO program and associated warranty are attractive is icing on the cake). Would that work for Chrysler? Ford? Kia? No.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    Pacifica wasnt a minivan, it was a crossover before crossovers were cool (popular).

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …In 1999, debis shocked the industry when we were chosen by Japanese luxury automaker Infiniti to provide factory subvented leases for their customers in their Western and Central Regions. Infiniti’s captive finance arm, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation, was out of money and the bank’s dealer satisfaction rankings were even lower than those of Chrysler Financial. Infiniti also admitted that they did not have the channels to dispose of off-lease vehicles…

    Following US accounting practices of the time, in 1999, if Nissan was US based and not Japan based, they would have been bankrupt.

    Oh, and Kristen Bell looks seriously creeped out in that picture – could she lean any further away?

    GREAT read – thank you so much!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    This is a fascinating read. I, too was dumbfounded at the MB-Chrysler takeover. Some good did come out of it, but at what a cost!

    Why does so many things I read and have experienced about Chrysler consist of crooked dealerships? I was the victim of one, and have had troubling inklings of more. One dealership that hosed me over went out of business, as well as another one north of where I live.

  • avatar

    I currently own the two fastest, most powerful, street-legal production cars in my neighborhood and I have the merger to thank for it.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      LOL, you need to move to a nicer neighborhood.

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        I live in a pretty nice neighborhood. There are a LOT of F150s, Ram 1500s, and a couple of Silverados and Sierras. A few Explorers, a few Lexus and Toyota SUVs, and a few Chevy Equinox’s. I would imagine the most powerful of the trucks is the neighbor’s Ram 1500 with an upgraded (forged) stroker crank and forged pistoned 5.7 with a blower on it.

        The most powerful car in my neighborhood presently is either my neighbor’s SRT ’12 Yellow Jacket Challenger, or it’s the new MB the guy about 4 doors down just got which I haven’t seen in the daytime, yet. It sounds great. I’m probably about 3rd or 4th with my Challenger R/T, along with a Charger R/T (In dull silver, of course), and a ’15 Challenger R/T in the green I don’t like much. Nice car, sad color. My ’16 will probably be red unless Dodge gets some good colors back again. All of the Challengers in the area can be traced back to mine. Seeing it every day got them hooked and they bought. All of them seem very happy with them, as I am.

  • avatar
    Ryan8310

    Great article with an “inside” perspective on the financial services part of the auto industry. Also, interesting commentary on differing cultures between organizations. It’s sad (although not surprising) to hear that companies still have senior managers with such poor people leadership skills.

  • avatar

    Very interesting read! Thanks for it. As someone who acquires inventory from MBFS among others, I find that I ‘nerd out’ more than most over things like this, even among those in the business.

    I will say that the Mercedes lane I buy from in Orlando (and the short-lived run at Sarasota) is one of the most put-together in terms of vehicle recon, disclosures on condition, etc.

    Question – how did TD Bank end up being tied up with Chrysler/Mercedes (if at all…maybe I misunderstand the association).

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      By “lane” do you mean like a distribution center for off-lease stuff?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        No, its literally a lane in the auction blockhouse.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Each credit company gets their own lane? Or is it by brand?

          The only car auctions I’ve been to (circa 2002) are those dealer-reject ones that Nigerians attend looking for bargains on used Land Rovers. So I don’t have a good example.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yeah the “public” ones, stay away from those. I haven’t physically stood on the block in five years but the way it used to work to my recollection there were usually a dozen lanes in Wednesday’s regular sale. Lanes 1-5 were the “popular” lanes and were this is always where the best product was showcased typically by new car dealers only. Lanes 6-10 were where the used car dealers bought and sold everything else, and which some lease remarketing companies occupied (i.e. MBCC, GMAC, Chrysler Financial). Enterprise had its own lane at the end and I think there may have been another rental lane. Weird stuff would always run on the final lane (boats, motorcycles), usually at the end of the general sale (11:30ish). Occasionally a whole brand would occupy its own lane but I don’t recall how often this was (it may have simply been the captive financier’s lane and not the “brand” per se). Other sale days were reserved for factory sales to new car dealers only and only one OEM would be sold. I think Ford’s was Tuesday, GM’s was usually Thursday, and I think Chrysler’s was Monday. Thursday afternoon after the factory sale was the “as-is” sale (read: junk) which my shop frequently bought (as-is as in limited arbitration). This was the closest thing to a “public sale” which happened at BAA (now Manheim Pittsburgh). Flybrian “stays in the lanes” far more than I did but I imagine at bigger auctions some brands or captive finance companies have their own permanent lanes.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks, this is good info. I think it would be exciting to attend one of those and try to price in my head.

            Fun public auction story: Walking around the gravel lot behind the place with my dad and grandfather, we come across an 86 or so 5-Series, when they still had the “e” after the model name. It looked okay! You were allowed to start the cars, so I hopped in and started it. Nobody else was really around at that area except us. It started fine, an then went brrrt-bbbbbrrrrt-brt. PINGGGGG. And it sounded like something literally hit the inside of the hood. We all made a face, and I switched off the ignition and we walked away, quietly. That one wouldn’t be driving up the ramp an hour later.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      My next door neighbor buys almost all his cars at the local auction. He seems to mostly do well with the stuff he buys, but I don’t have the nerve, or the money, to gamble on it. He recently bought his first real dog, a VW Passat which blew a head gasket almost immediately, and then blew it again about a month later. I haven’t seen it since, so I wonder if it’s gone, or waiting for parts or an engine. The worst looking one was a Ram 2500 plow truck with a bent up front end. It looked terrible, but has been a great truck so far. I wish I could gamble, there’s some good deals, I’m sure out there.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Fantasic read. More like this. The insider perspective from different areas of the business is fascinating. Perhaps one day I’ll write about the same types of things and people will want to read them. That day is not today, though.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “CF senior managers only communicated to employees one band level below them and all other workers were not to approach them”

    Unless you’re willing to play the game, quit if you work somewhere like this.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      It sounds awful. Here where I work, I can go to anybody’s office no matter how high up (maybe excepting the CEO) and be greeted with a hello and a smile.

  • avatar
    Internet Commenter

    Love the inside baseball.

    It’s insight like this that separates TTAC from other sites (i.e. click-bait, thinly veiled advertising, copy/paste junk, etc.)

    Nice work, thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      +1 Internet Commenter.

      I’m sure there are a lot of other insiders who have experienced things from the inside with some great stories that are just waiting to be told.

      How cool would it be for TTAC to become the place for them to be able open up and peel back the curtain?

      Thanks for sharing this story Steve. I can’t wait for the next one!

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        ++1

        Between Mikey, Steve Lang, Flybrian and many, many others, insider perspectives are tremendously enlightening.

        The car reviews always seem more authentic as well….

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    My personal view is that Daimler screwed Chrysler royally. While Daimler did do a couple things right, it appears that just before they broke the ‘partnership’, Daimler sold Chrysler’s award-winning electronics division to Siemens–meanwhile leaving Chrysler with some extremely problematical electronics that had some cars going insane on the road. Mine was one of these cars and my local dealership flat refused to believe there was a central cause to the problems, insisting it was isolated switches causing problems not even related to their purpose–like the door lock switch in the car causing the headlamps to flash and the horn blow incessantly as though I’d hit the panic button on my remote while the windshield washers and wipers ran at full speed. These are problems unheard of from Chrysler before the Daimler merger. I also believe there’s another issue they refuse to acknowledge. Interestingly, I’ve not heard of Fiat-designed Chrysler vehicles experiencing either of these issues.

  • avatar
    turf3

    I had pretty direct experience of both passenger car and Jeep-Truck engineering and prototype vehicles during the time just before and after the DCX takeover. The Chrysler vehicles throughout that time were universally seen by us (at a Tier One vendor) as cheap tinny poorly designed and built pieces of junk. We supplied Honda and Mazda in the same time frame. From the technical standpoint there was just no comparison as to design and build quality. I never saw any improvement from Daimler’s involvement. Maybe it happened later, but I was involved up to 2005, so that would have been vehicles of MY2007 or MY2008.

    There were a few talented and skilled engineers at Chrysler but they were few and far between. I used to have a list of incredibly stupid comments from these guys, which were always good for some comic relief. My favorite remains this from a supposed engine design engineer on a plant tour:

    “why does the part turn and the tool stand still?” [answer: “Because it’s a lathe!”]

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      LOL! I have one, from a college educated coworker of mine, in a meeting.

      “The company has not said whether they would augment their staff after the merger.”

      Coworker [loudly]: “Oh what are they going to do, augment it from twelve to eight?”

      *Puzzled looks from room full of people.*

  • avatar
    STRATOS

    The merger was stupid from the beginning .Claiming they would be saving by sharing products.The only thing they shared are German names.Chrysler only made front wheel drive cars and Mercedes only made rear drive cars.Great synergy.Mercedes had thousands of patents for new products and Chrysler ,almost none and their dark dingy plants were like ones from ww2 era.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    This article is Inside Baseball fantastic and backfilled some history I needed a bit more information about. Nice job. More please.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    I am still amazed by the conviction with which Chrysler apologists claim that Mercedes “used” Chrysler and left it for dead. This, despite Chrysler’s years of subsequent losses and Daimler’s final, $27 billion bath on the entire acquisition. The sad truth is that Chrysler’s biggest successes are usually attributable to savvy niche plays (minivans), styling (Ram), or pure market luck (any Jeep). When they have to compete against others in a mature, competitive market (sedans, compacts, non-Jeep SUVs),they fall flat. Daimler didn’t help (their expertise is decidedly not in FWD), but they didn’t send the company on any more of a downward trajectory.

    IMO, Robert Eaton doesn’t get enough credit for finding a big enough sucker to grossly overpay for Chrysler. Schrempp bought a lot of other stupid things with Mercedes’ money (Fokker aircraft, a huge stake in Mitsubishi), paid for by the eliminating the “excessive engineering” that made a Mercedes a Mercedes. Schrempp makes Jac Nasser look like Jack Welch.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I will give Daimler credit for redesigning a number of Chrysler’s vehicles. They made the Jeep brand extremely popular especially with the four-door version of the Wrangler.

    BUT, the quality of the brands on average seems to have fallen through the floor. They seemingly ‘cheaped out’ on parts to the point that electrical systems frequently generated insane characteristics while something as simple as the hand-brake lever would break teeth, causing the handbrake to increase drag at one axle and create other issues over time as the system tried to adapt. Even the transmissions got involved as several caught fire over the years. FCA has been working their assets off trying to fix the problems Daimler created.

    So am I happy that Daimler bailed? Yes. They did more harm than good to the Chrysler Group in more ways than one. FCA is still trying to fix their problems and seem to have done a far better job so far.


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