Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Mercedes production and purchasing, and Andreas Renschler, chief of Daimler Trucks will be swapping roles effective April 1, 2013, Daimler said in a statement. The move to swap roles was decided at Daimler’s recent supervisory board meeting. The meeting also saw the extension of the contract of Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche to the end of 2016.
Morgan Stanley said in a note to investors that the role swap is likely to confirm Bernhard and Renschler as the prime candidates to replace Zetsche as Daimler CEO after 2016. Roman Mathyssek of IHS Global Insight remarked that the chances that Bernhard could become Daimler’s next CEO had increased further with the announcement.
He noted that there is an unwritten law at Daimler that the CEO must prove himself at the truck division. Daimler is giving Zetsche more time to place the carmaker on track as the largest premium carmaker in the world by 2020. Zetsche has been holding the post since 2006 and his new contract could make him one of the Daimler’s longest-serving CEOs.
According to analysts, the decision to extend Zetsche's contract underscores a lack of alternative candidates. The extension came despite rising criticism from the financial markets that rivals BMW and Audi are winning the race to become the world’s No. 1 premium carmaker at Daimler's expense, particularly in China.
Supervisory Board chairman Manfred Bischoff remarked that the long-term orientation of Daimler's leadership is an essential factor for Daimler's sustained success. He added that Zetsche's extended contract helps maintain "the important continuity at the top executive level.”