Blog: Dave LeggettCouch potato

Dave Leggett | 21 October 2003

I enjoyed a marathon TV viewing session last night which finished at 1:20am. I have a heavy cold at the moment and therefore was fit for little else (that's my excuse). What delights passed before me? Pray tell Mr Leggett. Well, it was a mixture and I'm a terrible channel hopper, but there were a couple of automotive things that got me going. Some highlights. A consumer motoring programme had a pretty young female presenter thrashing the roads around Modena in a highly tuned racing version of the Ferrari 360. Very nice engine sound. She clearly enjoyed herself. But I think I’ll follow her advice and save myself $50,000 by taking the regular 360 instead.

The programme then moved on to a new product review. We were treated to an unkempt and overweight slob who was hanging out of his shorts (just make yourself presentable mate, that’s all we ask) reviewing the new Golf. He proclaimed that, while a good car, it is just not iconic enough for him. ‘Golfsburg’ must have expected that kind of reaction when it played safe with the design. That item was followed by a (in my view) slightly morally dubious review of the latest and best radar and speed camera alert/detection systems. There was even a laser emitting device that is ostensibly for operating garage doors remotely but has the handy side-effect of jamming police radar guns. Nice. I have been known to speed myself (and get points on my driving licence) but I’m not sure about the ethics of encouraging this sort of stuff. Enough idiots driving too fast already. Just take the punishment and no-one’s above the law. Yes, middle age is making a wuss of me.

But the best was saved till last. After midnight the BBC carried an in-depth report and review of the DaimlerChrysler merger. It was all there. Interviews with some key characters and observers. The commercial background in the late 1990s, the politics in Detroit as well as Stuttgart; the clandestine and dramatic negotiations culminating in the Schrempp-Eaton meeting at the Dorchester hotel in London; 'Big Bob (Lutz), little Bob (Eaton)'; Schrempp's Machiavellian manoeuvrings to outflank respected Mercedes-Benz boss Helmut Werner; the S&P 500 delisting crisis which sank the share price; the inflammatory Jon Pepper column in The Detroit News. Remember Schrempp’s admission in an interview with the FT that it was no merger of equals and the resultant furore (which did for the hapless Jim Holden)? An interviewed DC board member still maintained that he'd never actually said that. Not very credible, but a difficult subject for them of course.

Bob Eaton didn’t come across in the programme too well at all (but he wasn't actually interviewed; if he was offered the chance to put his version of events, he should have taken it). ‘The man who sold Chrysler’ will probably be his epitaph I think. Tom Stallkamp came across as a lucid guy with a bit of integrity though. Pity the new company couldn’t have kept more people like him. Zetsche seemed like a decent enough guy on camera and is probably the best that people in Auburn Hills can hope for. Jurgen Schrempp? It’s good and bad. He’s obviously driven and someone who makes things happen, but was he the best guy to lead a merger like this? Could it have been anything other than a takeover? Handled differently? Maybe it is still too early to make a definitive judgement on DCX, but I’d forgotten what a great story the world’s biggest industrial merger is. And a few more chapters have yet to be written.


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