Academic journal article Communication Studies

Audiences and Metaphors of Globalization in the Daimler Chrysler AG Merger

Academic journal article Communication Studies

Audiences and Metaphors of Globalization in the Daimler Chrysler AG Merger

Article excerpt

The 1999 merger of Chrysler Corporation and Daimler Benz involved the creation of a truly global corporation by combining two organizations of roughly the same size and in the same industry, but with two very diverse cultures. Chrysler, grounded in market driven American entrepreneurship and forged in the near bankruptcy of the 1980s, emphasized innovation and flexibility, within a highly focused business strategy. Daimler Benz, characterized by structured, hierarchical management, and German engineering excellence, emphasized luxury markets within a highly diversified corporate structure. This merger was accompanied by a strategic explanatory and justificatory discourse offered by senior managers, including Daimler Benz CEO Jurgen Schrempp and Chrysler CEO Bob Eaton. This discourse was directed to external audiences, primarily shareholders, and internal audiences, employees as well as dealers, primarily in executive speeches, press releases, and in publications and replicated throughout the business press. It was designed principally to overcome resistance to the creation of this new global company.

This paper tracks this horizontal merger, from the perspective of the Chrysler Corporation, through a qualitative, critical examination of the discourse of global merger and its attendant metaphors. We seek to clarify how metaphors functioned in this merger as strategic devices designed to influence the way the merger was interpreted. The analysis examines the discourse accompanying the announcement of the merger on May 7, 1998 and the discourse surrounding the current DaimlerChryslerAG.

Various organizational texts and conversations were collected, beginning with the day the news of the merger broke in the media. These texts were collected primarily from Chrysler's world headquarters and included speeches, press releases, e-mails, strategy documents, stock proxy statements, internal publications and newsletters, video tapes, interviews and informal conversations. Some, such as press releases, were publicly available documents while others were distributed more narrowly to company employees. These texts were cross-referenced and supplemented with various media accounts. The analysis focuses on the construction of meaning(s) for the merged corporation's multiple and complex audiences (Cheney 1991) and the use of framing metaphors for the merger found in the collected texts (Putnam & Fairhurst, 2000; Marshak, 1996; Morgan, 1986; Grant & Oswick, 1996). Our goal is to provide a detailed, qualitative description and assessment of how metaphors functioned in this global merger. These metaphors, identified by frequency of use, repetitiveness, and prominence regarding where they appeared, include "a single global entity," "a good fit," and "a marriage of equals."

GLOBALISM

Mergers and acquisitions, the search for new markets, raw materials and labor, the transmission of technology to developing countries and the integration of world economies have all helped further the trend toward globalism. Stohl (2001) notes that "globalism refers to the interconnected nature of the global economy, the interpretation of global and domestic organizations, and communication technologies that blur temporal and spatial boundaries" (p. 325). She argues that examinations of globalism in organizational communication may be divided along two trends, divergence and convergence. Convergence, rooted in contingency theory, suggests that similar patterns and structures of organization and communication will develop across national and cultural contexts. Divergence literature, in contrast, views cultural as a immutable influence on organizations. Organizations bound by different cultures will, therefore, diverge. Stohl notes that these two forces represent the fundamental dialect tension of globalization. "The environmental and technological pressures on contemporary organizations to become more and more similar clash with the proprietary pull of cultural identifications, traditional values, and conventional practices of social life" (p. …

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