U.S. dealers were shocked when Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Ernst Lieb was fired last week. Lieb, who was well regarded by the dealers, ended a five-year run wherein the U.S. sales arm was definitely strengthened. His removal came amid the "zero tolerance" crackdown on ethics breaches at Daimler AG.
Nothing official has come out from the company or from Lieb but sources say that he was let go for spending the company’s money on his personal expenses. These violations were discovered as part of the company’s attempt to eliminate corruption after Daimler was able to resolve a bribery scandal last year.
A source said that Daimler will not tolerate things that people committed in the past. The source also said that in the past years, a few other executives were removed but Lieb is the only U.S. official to be discharged. He further said that there won’t be any more dismissals at Mercedes-Benz USA.
Another insider said that Daimler found that Lieb had charged a personal trip to Australia. Daimler named Herbert Werner, the vice president of finance at Mercedes-Benz USA and the only German on the U.S. executive team, as interim CEO. Lieb had been instrumental in pushing Mercedes’ U.S. sales to a figure that almost closes the gap with BMW.
In 2007, BMW sold more units than Mercedes by around 40,000 units. In 2010, BMW sold just 3,728 more. From January to September 2011, Mercedes had sold 170,058 vehicles – just 7,500 units lower than BMW’s sales. This figure does not include Mercedes' Sprinter commercial vehicle.