MERCEDES-BENZ has announced its long-term head Dieter Zetsche will step down at the end of the annual shareholder’s meeting next year, to be replaced by Daimler board member responsible for group research and Mercedes-Benz Cars development Ola Källenius.
The decision by Dr Zetsche to step down comes as he stakes his claim for the position of chairman of the supervisory board, which is set to be vacated by incumbent chairman Manfred Bischoff in 2021, and which requires a cooling-off period of two years to serve in the position.
A succession plan has been formed by the supervisory board to ensure Dr Zetsche’s movement, with Dr Bischoff to recommend Dr Zetsche at the annual shareholder’s meeting in May next year.
Mr Källenius will take Dr Zetsche’s place in 2019 on a five-year contract, as both chairman of the board of management for Daimler AG, and as head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
The move by Dr Zetsche is the latest in an extensive career with Daimler AG, which began in 1976 when he became a member of the research division at Daimler-Benz.
This was followed by a range of roles throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including the president of Mercedes-Benz Argentina, member of management of Mercedes-Benz Brazil and president of Freightliner Corporation.
He was first appointed as a member of the board of management of Daimler AG in 1998, and became the board chairman at the start of 2006.
Meanwhile, Mr Källenius has been a board member since January 2015, first beginning with the company in 1995 as the manager for corporate controlling at Mercedes-Benz US International.
He has since worked in roles such as senior manager of engine emission management and electrical engine components with DaimlerChrysler, managing director of Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines, vice-president, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz US International, vice-president and managing director and even executive director of operations at McLaren.
Dr Bischoff has been the chairman of the supervisory board since 2007, extending his reign to 2021 when he was re-elected in 2016 on a five-year term.
He was glowing in his praise of Dr Zetsche and his achievements during his tenure at Daimler.
“As a long-standing member of the board of management and chairman of the board of management, Dieter Zetsche has played a key role in shaping Daimler AG and has ensured its strategically outstanding positioning for the mobility of the future,” he said.
“As chairman of the board of management, he has proven that he can lead Daimler AG also in difficult circumstances and can inspire employees to pursue ambitious goals. With Dieter Zetsche’s intended appointment as chairman of the supervisory board, we are ensuring continuity for the sustained success of Daimler AG.
“In Ola Källenius, we are appointing a recognized, internationally experienced and successful Daimler executive as chairman of the board of management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. At the same time, we are relying on the proven dual responsibility of the chairman of the board of management as the head of the largest division, Mercedes-Benz Cars.”
By Robbie Wallis