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from a report in the Detroit News:

For months, Chrysler's "Dr. Z" campaign endeavored to convince folks the Auburn Hills-based automaker was different than its cross-town rivals.
It had German technology, thanks to parent DaimlerChrysler AG and sister Mercedes-Benz. It had leaner operations, the result of a crash restructuring four-plus years ago. It was, theoretically, the exception to the perceived rule that all things Detroit are an intractable mess.

But it was no such thing.

For all the change at Chrysler -- during five years under Dieter Zetsche, now DaimlerChrysler chairman, and another under his successor, Tom LaSorda -- Chrysler never weaned itself from Detroit's cheap-gas-drives-big-vehicle business model, which proved hopelessly broken once high gas prices forced people to stop buying big trucks and SUVs.

And Chrysler still hasn't mastered the art of managing its car and truck inventories, the source of nasty surprises in 2000, 2003 and again this summer. The only reason heads aren't likely to roll after this latest gaffe is that Zetsche hasn't been gone long enough to completely disavow some measure of culpability.

Seen this movie before

The net effect is a $1.5 billion operating loss in the third quarter, roughly three times the quarterly loss that led to the ouster of President Jim Holden six years ago, the dispatch of Zetsche to Chrysler and a brutal restructuring that ultimately made Chrysler 40,000 jobs smaller.

Then the German chorus, disgusted by mounting evidence of Chrysler's fundamental weakness and how it might damage Mercedes, called for Chairman Juergen Schrempp to dump the company he'd acquired in the most audacious deal Deutschland AG had ever seen. He ignored them, mostly because the success of the Daimler-Chrysler fusion defined his legacy.

Fast forward six years, and the German chorus is singing the same tune -- dump Chrysler. That's just as unlikely under a Zetsche regime, mostly for the same reason: How Chrysler fares will be a referendum on his tenure, and it was his tenure at Chrysler that landed him arguably the most prestigious job in industrial Germany.

"It is certain that there will be no sale of Chrysler or of a part of the brand," Zetsche told the German daily Die Welt over the weekend. "Changes in personnel are also not envisioned."

More Detroit, less Stuttgart

But a faster move toward the cars and car-based products that the market demands certainly is. More than 70 percent of Chrysler's sales (and most of its potential profits) are concentrated in trucks, SUVs and minivans. If the past few months don't show how dangerous that position is, what will?

Chrysler eagerly points out that "small cars and crossovers," currently 21 percent of its sales, should contribute 27 percent by the end of next year. Should the subcompact Hornet enter a segment where the only Detroit automaker amid a fleet of Asian rivals is GM, that'll help, too.

Fair enough. For all the gyrations about Chrysler being a different kind of American car company, there's still far more Detroit in the pentastar than there is Stuttgart or Tokyo -- which explains the root of this latest crisis.
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