Dieter Zetsche’s step down denied by Daimler

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 30, 2010

Dieter Zetsche will not be replaced by Wolfgang Bernhard as Daimler AG's CEO and head of the Mercedes-Benz Cars division. Daimler spokesman Joerg Howe sent out this e-mailed statement in response to a report by Germany's Focus weekly magazine. Howe described this magazine's report as "fictional and without foundation."

Before Daimler sold its former US unit (Chrysler), 49-year-old Bernhard had served as Zetsche's No. 2 at Chrysler from 2000 to 2004. Bernhard presently heads Mercedes' production and purchasing. Last February, Bernhard was named to Daimler's six-member management board.

This coincided with the renewal of Zetsche's contract with Daimler until 2013. Sources inside Daimler said that the company is denying Focus' claims that next year, Zetsche will give up the role of Mercedes head to Bernhard and that in 2012, it will make way for Bernhard to become Daimler CEO.

In a statement that came out last Saturday, Daimler emphasized that Zetsche will fulfill his contract until it expires at the end of 2013. The German Press has been criticizing Zetsche's dual role as head of Daimler and the company's premium cars division.

There had been speculations last February that Bernhard's role as head of production and purchasing at Mercedes cars is an interim one before he embarks on a new role as head of Mercedes, then Daimler CEO. It can be recalled in 2004, Bernhard was nearly promoted to head Mercedes.

However, he was rejected by then-CEO Juergen Schrempp before taking on the job. He then started running the Volkswagen brand ‚ a period when much emphasis was placed on cost-cutting and quality. In January 2007, Bernhard was ousted in a boardroom shakeup that had been planned by VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech.

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