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Steering Around Culture Clashes

Autos: An integration team at DaimlerChrysler is trying to cope with cross-border differences--everything from labor-management relations to Germany's 9 a.m. beer breaks.

January 17, 1999|CAROL J. WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

German executives wave off concern about the two sides' wide variances in production costs as details unlikely to disrupt the venture. Where Daimler-Benz produces 850,000 passenger vehicles a year with about 120,000 employees, Chrysler makes 3 million with a work force of about the same size.

Different spending priorities have become clear even in the two months since the merger was completed, most obviously in corporate advertising for the new venture that has departed from Daimler's long-standing view that it had no need to invest in goodwill.

The multimillion-dollar promotion of the new company spread the diverse visages of executives, engineers and assembly workers across the pages of the most influential European and U.S. publications, marking a clear preference for American image-marketing techniques.

One of the multi-page advertisements depicts two crash-test dummies embracing as they selflessly plunge into the work of getting demolished. Although a fatal collision may be unlikely for the two auto makers, the fact remains that most of those who have gone before them have crashed and burned.

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DaimlerChrysler at a Glance

A look at the assets of the combined DaimlerChrysler:

Headquarters: Stuttgart, Germany, and Auburn Hills, Mich.

Co-chairmen: Juergen Schrempp and Robert Eaton

Employees: 434,000

1998 combined revenue: $148 billion

1998 combined operating earnings: $7.06 billion*

Group auto sales in 1998: 4.4 million units, with Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and Jeep car and truck brands accounting for about 3 million units

Rank: No. 5 in worldwide vehicle sales, behind General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen

Top sellers (U.S. market, 1998): Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan minivans, Dodge Durango sport-utility vehicle, Dodge Ram pickup series, Jeep Grand Cherokee sport-utility; Mercedes-Benz E300 sedan and E20 wagon, ML320/430 sport-utility

* Estimate

Sources: Autodata Corp., company and wire service reports

Researched by JENNIFER OLDHAM / Los Angeles Times

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