Cover Story -- Voices of the New Europe
Manfred Gentz/Germany: Mobilizing Globalizing (int'l edition)
As a boy growing up in postwar Berlin, Manfred Gentz knew about a nearby technological marvel only from schoolbooks: a huge crane that lifted barges from one canal to another. But he never saw it. The Soviet-occupied countryside was closed to West Berliners.
That was just one way the Wall affected Gentz's life. More dramatically, its fall set in motion forces of globalization that contributed to the creation of German-U.S. auto maker DaimlerChrysler, where Gentz is chief financial officer. He is convinced the merger of Daimler-Benz with Chrysler Corp. last year could have taken place even if the Cold War still simmered. But, he says, with the fall of the Wall, globalization acquired unstoppable momentum. Big industrial companies had to operate worldwide or perish. "The idea of merging companies in different parts of the world grew faster in the '90s than in the '70s and '80s. You have to produce at larger scale or you're lost," says Gentz, now 57.
Gentz joined Daimler as a management trainee in 1970. Since 1989, he has been one of the key people guiding Daimler's expansion in the changed world economy. "Once the Wall came down, Eastern Europe and huge parts of Asia became accessible for Western economies," Gentz says. Although East Europe is a small market for Daimler, Gentz says he's convinced that one day the former Soviet bloc will be a huge market.
Gentz found time a few years ago to travel to the countryside near Berlin, where he finally saw that giant crane he had read about as a boy. "It was very impressive," he recalls. So, too, the corporate changes in post-Wall Germany.By Jack Ewing in Frankfurt