Daimler CEO succession talk reignites after top executive quits

Wed Jan 29, 2014 5:58am EST
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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Three Daimler (DAIGn.DE: Quote) executives are seen as contenders for the top job if CEO Dieter Zetsche's contract is not extended in 2016, following the sudden departure of a senior executive who was a candidate for the role.

Andreas Renschler, head of manufacturing at its Mercedes-Benz Cars unit, is leaving the German luxury car and truck maker, and analysts say he may take a job at Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote). His contract had been due to expire in 2018.

Daimler's Chief Financial Officer Bodo Uebber, Trucks chief Wolfgang Bernhard and China chief Hubertus Troska were favourites for CEO, Berstein analysts said in a note.

The succession issue had already become a thorny topic last year when the supervisory board extended Zetsche's contract by three years, instead of an expected five, to soothe investor concerns over failure to meet guidance and keep up with rivals.

But the Stuttgart-based manufacturer narrowed a sales gap with its premium-car rivals BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote) and Volkswagen's Audi last year, thanks to redesigned compact vehicles, having dropped to third place in the luxury-sales race behind Audi in 2011.

And the lack of a clear successor may also favour the case for extending Zetsche's contract beyond 2016, analysts said. Zetsche remains head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, a division which includes luxury cars and the Smart brand.

"The latest move means Zetsche's position is uncontested," one Daimler employee, who declined to be named, said.

Zetsche said in a statement late on Tuesday that Markus Schaefer, previously head of production planning at Mercedes-Benz Cars, would take on most of Renschler's responsibilities.

Analysts said Renschler, previously head of Daimler Trucks, could help Volkswagen integrate its trucks businesses: MAN (MANG.DE: Quote), Scania SCVb.ST and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.   Continued...

Chairman of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz cars Dieter Zetsche speaks during the press preview day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 13, 2014. REUTERS/Joshua Lott