WHEELS ON FIRE by David Waller


The Amazing Inside Story of the DaimlerChrysler Merger
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Topping a standout decade for business, the mammoth DaimlerChrysler merger of 1998 was hard to miss, but this scoop goes into the vitals of the deal and cuts across headlines.

“Telling the story from the European point of view for the first time,” business writer Waller kept company with German and US coteries to the transaction, and (besides these strange bedfellows) took in battalions of employees and fifth-column shareholders as well. His narrative never swerves from the car guys, and Waller conveys admiration for their mettle, tested in closed-door strategizing, laying rubber on the racetrack, and milking the media. Of course, the premise that drives the story (i.e., that it was personality as much as business logic gave the deal its visionary luster) is a standard principle of the mergers-and-acquisitions bookshelf, so Waller’s account needs to make up in depth what it lacks in originality. His engaging and at times witty narrative and commentary draw one in from the start, but he rightly cautions in his foreword that unprecedented access to DaimlerChrysler was granted him on one condition—namely, that the CEO could check all quotations attributed to him. That man, Juergen E. Schrempp, is the business mind whose mid-1990s overhaul of Daimler-Benz prepared for the launch of the historic, cross-border merger. Waller introduces him (on page one) as he heads to meet his Detroit-based counterpart with a well-guarded proposal. Swift, interludial histories of the early auto concerns that became DaimlerChrysler lead to a brief biography of Schrempp, his mould-breaking attitude of constructive conflict leading to his appointment atop Germany AG. The end, unfortunately, disappoints as corporate speak cuts the author’s voice. And the paean to Schrempp sounds today quaint, with the deal and his job in question.

Fundamentally, however, time spent here is an enjoyable investment. (16 pp. b&w photos)

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-340-77036-8
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2001