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Zetsche Hands Torch to LaSorda at Chrysler

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Link: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050831/ap_on_...hrysler_zetsche

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - On his last day as president and chief executive of the Chrysler Group, Dieter Zetsche said his proudest accomplishment was building the leadership team he leaves behind. He said he'll try to develop a similar team as head of DaimlerChrysler AG.

Zetsche attended a United Way fund-raising rally at Chrysler Group's headquarters Wednesday afternoon before leaving for Germany. Zetsche takes over DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes division Thursday and is scheduled to become chairman of DaimlerChrysler AG on Jan. 1.

"Despite my new responsibilities, I will not be a stranger here in Auburn Hills," Zetsche told several hundred cheering Chrysler employees at the event.

Zetsche wouldn't say what his first action will be at Mercedes, which has been struggling with low profits and quality problems.

"First, I'll listen and see where we are. That has to be done. And then I will certainly continue what has been started and see where we can accelerate ... to get us back to where we want to be as fast as possible," Zetsche told reporters at the event.

He said he expects to continue the team-oriented approach he had at Chrysler.

"I am who I am," Zetsche said. "That's why I tried to have people aligned behind our targets in Auburn Hills, and that's the same which I will try over there."

Zetsche wouldn't discuss an ongoing government investigation into whether DaimlerChrysler bribed foreign officials. He said Chrysler has controls in place to prevent illegal activity, and he expects DaimlerChrysler does to.

Zetsche also hinted he will try to lighten the company's stodgy image.

"They understand humor over there," he said. "Definitely, we want to work hard, we want to be successful, but we want to have fun as well."

Zetsche passed a torch from the 1956 Olympic games to incoming Chrysler president and CEO Tom LaSorda at the United Way event. LaSorda, who will lead Chrysler's United Way fund-raising effort, said the company has set a fund-raising goal of $5.4 million this year.

DaimlerChrysler shares rose 67 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $51.68 in Wednesday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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