Thursday, October 13, 2005

Driving you round the Benz

Mercedes was once a byword for quality, and its customers the most loyal. Then it all went wrong. But the only way is up for its new chairman says Gavin Green

Published: 11 October 2005, The Independent

"Schrempp's chairmanship saw much action, but few achievements. He oversaw a lot more than Mercedes slipping from the best quality in the world to near the bottom - as if that wasn't unforgivable enough. He also engineered Mercedes-Benz's disastrous takeover of US mass maker Chrysler in 1998 - which has seen the company's share price fall by almost half. He oversaw an expensive and disastrous alliance with Mitsubishi that floundered just as rival Renault was making a huge success of its Japanese partner, Nissan. The Smart small car business has been a financial catastrophe (although I'm fond of the cars) - overall losses are reckoned at more than £2bn. And the Maybach luxury car brand has been a disaster: sales are a fraction of those anticipated.

So the only way to go, for new boss Dieter Zetsche - moustachioed former head of the Chrysler division, who takes over as chairman on January 1 - is up.

Schrempp's legacy is clearly a large one, but, to loyal customers (and no customers were more loyal than Benz's), the biggest catastrophe of all was Mercedes-Benz's fall into the quality gutter. Mercedes had built the finest cars in the world for probably 40 years, maybe longer. Benz had invented the car. Nobody made tasteful, beautifully wrought, elegantly designed cars as well as Mercedes-Benz."

Read full smarticle here.

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