October 30, 2014 / 2:28 PM / 3 years ago

Daimler, VW dampen speculation about imminent CEO succession

The Volkswagen logo is seen on a Volkswagen XL Sport car during the media day at the Paris Mondial de l'Automobile, October 3, 2014. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

MUNICH (Reuters) - Succession is not an imminent topic at Daimler or Volkswagen, the chief executives of both carmakers said on Thursday, adding that any potential candidates would most likely come from within their respective companies.

Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche and Martin Winterkorn, who heads up Volkswagen, were both asked during a panel discussion in Munich whether succession was imminent and whether a suitable candidate had emerged.

Zetsche said it was generally unwise to speculate in public about who would become the next chief executive, because premature exposure may prove disruptive to a smooth succession process.

“If somebody were to emerge into the open as crown prince, he would be shot down the next day,” Zetsche said, without elaborating further.

Daimler has a number of internal candidates who have the opportunity to prove themselves as being worthy, Zetsche added somewhat cryptically.

External candidates could bring a fresh point of view, but they tend to emerge at companies that are in trouble.

“If you are doing well, like all the three German automakers are, it is more likely that a successor will come from within,” Zetsche added.

Zetsche, who is 61, has a contract that runs until 2016.

Asked whether his replacement had already been born, Volkswagen’s Winterkorn said, “He has definitely been born, but I don’t know what his name is.”

The 67-year-old Volkswagen chief, whose contract also runs out in 2016, was also asked whether he has one or several candidates in mind to follow in his footsteps, to which he said, “It would be bad if that were not the case.”

Winterkorn further said that he felt it would be an advantage if a successor came from within the company, because that person would know the processes and key people.

“An outsider would find it difficult,” Winterkorn said.

Reporting by Irene Preisinger, additional reporting by Jan Schwartz, writing by Edward Taylor; Editing by Susan Fenton

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