Chrysler Suicide Watch 7: Be My Valentine… Or Else

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
chrysler suicide watch 7 be my valentine or else

Valentine’s Day. The day that keeps jewelers, greeting card companies, florists and candy makers afloat from the one Christmas to the next. The day where millions of dollars are spent around the world in the hopes of an increased chance of getting laid. And this year, it’s the day when DaimlerChrysler will reveal their makeover plan aimed at diverting Chrysler Group from its seemingly self-destructive course. Will “Project X” prove to be a lovefest for all concerned, or is it another St. Valentine’s Day Massacre just waiting to happen?

European stockholders and more than a few Mercedes executives have made no bones about their desire to trim the deadwood. They think DCX should ditch the “C” and become Daimler-Benz once again. If they had their way, the Chrysler Group would be cut loose and left to drift aimlessly until it either managed to paddle its own boat or went under. Either way, they would no longer have to worry about any corporate cross-breeding that could contaminate their unsullied gene pool.

According to a report in The Detroit News, the “dump Chrysler” partisans are about to be disabused of that notion. On February fourteenth, CEO Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Chief Executive Tom LaSorda and Mercedes-Benz Chief Operating Officer Rainer Schmückle will officially unveil their revitalization plan for the stricken American automaker

The new plan contains some ideas analysts have long expected: radical downsizing of Chrysler’s production capability, consolidating its far-flung operations and slashing over 10K blue collar jobs. But the new deal also contains a real shock, a decision that’s bound to raise more than a few eyebrows amongst Mercedes’ German stockholders. First, the details…

Under the new regime, Chrysler will do the GM thing– UAW buyouts and plant closures– to become a leaner, meaner automaker. As part of this revitalization program, Chrysler will also strengthen its ties with its Teutonic teammate. The two companies will share parts (though restricted to underbody components to avoid “cheapening” the Mercedes brand.)

The two automakers will also jointly create a shared architecture for the next-generation M-Class, Grand Cherokee and Durango. And they’ll co-develop new vehicle designs, including the next crop of small cars for American and European consumers.

In addition to the formal restructuring plan, there are other indications that the Berlin wall dividing these two “equals” is crumbling. According to today’s Automotive News, Chrysler is considering offering a diesel version of their newly redesigned minivan by model year 2010.

The diesel minivan would be the second Chrysler product equipped with a Mercedes oil burner, a 2.2-liter turbocharged four. (The Grand Cherokee will offer a 3.0-liter V6 diesel starting next month; the diesel Ram 1500 projected for model year 2010 will have a Cummins turbodiesel engine).

Chrysler is also consolidating minivan production to their plants in North America. They’ll end production at the Magna Steyr plant in Austria and move the European-market diesel and right-hand-drive Grand Voyagers back to a factory on Chrysler’s home turf. Once they replace the Italian-sourced diesel they currently use with EPA-certified Mercedes iron, there’s no reason not to offer them for sale in the US as well. And if that happens, could diesel passenger cars be far behind?

Chrysler’s restructuring plan sounds sound, but it flies in the face of the company’s well-established internecine conflict. As we’ve reported previously, the battle lines between the two behemoths have already been drawn. Lest we forget, DaimlerChrysler corporate development boss Ruediger Grube made a pre-Christmas declaration that "a Mercedes will remain a Mercedes and may not share a platform with anyone."

The tension between Germany’s “Mercedes first, last and always” loyalists and Chrysler’s American “You gotta help us out here” realists puts DCX on a tightrope. On a practical level, the Mercedes’ stockholders who share Ruediger’s reticence are not likely to back down simply because Mercedes has finally decided to do what they should have done in the first place. The backlash could be anything from demanding Zetsche’s head to wholesale stock dumping.

Just as dangerously, an anti-Chrysler cabal within the Mercedes organization could simply drag its feet on the implementation side of the deal. Just by not helping to make the agreement work, Mercedes’ management could make it fail. They’d simply wait for the plan to fall apart in the existing melee of clashing corporate cultures.

Zetsche, LaSorda and Schmückle have all spent a lot of hours and burned a lot of jet fuel to try and salvage the rocky relationship between the Chrysler Group and its German masters partners. But as any marriage counselor will tell you, both partners have to work to make a relationship a success.

Until and unless Mercedes’ best and brightest get with the program, the recriminations will fly. Hopefully this Valentine’s Day will mark the start of something beautiful, rather than the beginning of the end.

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  • on Feb 28, 2007

    A four cylinder Mercedes diesel is definite for 2010 or so.

  • on Feb 28, 2007

    PS> Interesting views on the DCX problems. Seems like the supervisory board is in two camps, the Schrempp Chrysler-haters and the Zetsche sympathizers. Lots of discussion...

  • Inside Looking Out I see it as gladiator races - only one survives in virtual world.
  • Crown They need to put the EcoDiesel back in the Grand Cherokee. I have a 2018 and it has been the most reliable vehicle I ever owned. 69,000 miles and only needed tires, and regular oil and fuel filter changes.
  • El scotto Y'all are overthinking this. Find some young hard-charging DA seeking the TV limelight to lock this kid up. Heck, have John Boehner come up from Cincy to help the young DA get his political career going. Better yet, have the young DA spin this as hard as he or she can; I'm the candidate for Law and Order, I defied our go-easy office and leadership to get this identified criminal locked up. Oh this could be spun more than a hyper active kid's top.Now I'd do some consulting work for Little Kings Original Cream Ale and Skyline Chili.
  • El scotto Pondering if he has a clean brandy snifter. Well but, ah, I mean the original Grand Wagoneer was fully loaded and had a V-8. The original Grand Wagoneer had an almost cult-like following with a certain type of woman. Attractive, educated high earning women; or those that put on the appearances of being that way.Our esteemed HerR DOKtor Perfessor again shows how ignorant he is of the American market. What he deems "bread-vans on stilts" are highly coveted by significant others that are also highly coveted. The new Grand Cherokee with the new well engineered V-6 will sell as well as the ones from the 80s some of us get wistful over. The only real question will be: LL Bean or Orvis edition?
  • El scotto Well, I've had cats that are smarted than a great many members of congress. I rather doubt that any of the congresspeople Matt named are engineers, finance people or project managers. Ya know, professionals you call in to get a job done.Today is Wednesday, this will be out of the 36 hour news cycle by Friday. Oh it might get mentioned again on OCT 6. Unless there are cute animals to put on TV that day.