Daimler, the owner of Mercedes-Benz, on Wednesday named its first non-German boss to take over as CEO next year amid fallout from an emissions cheating scandal.
The automaker said Ola Kallenius, a 49-year-old Swede, will replace Dieter Zetsche, who’s led Daimler since 2006 — and has faced controversy with new emissions tests, a German probe into Mercedes diesel engines and growing trade barriers among key sales regions.
In June, Mercedes was forced to recall 774,000 vehicles equipped with “prohibited [emissions] shut-off devices.” It avoided fines from the scandal, but still faces car-owner lawsuits in the United States.
Kallenius was promoted to a research and development role in 2017 and was seen as the heir apparent to take up the role next year. He has been at Daimler most of his career since 1995 — except for two years, from 2003 to 2005, when he served as director of McLaren Automotive in Britain.
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In addition to being a non-German CEO of Daimler, Kallenius is also not an engineer, but a finance and management specialist.
“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,” stated Manfred Bischoff, chairman of Daimler’s Supervisory Board.
Daimler also announced that as part of its transition, Zetsche will succeed Bischoff on the Supervisory Board in three years.
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“Mr. Zetsche can be given credit for a number of achievements,” said analyst Max Waburton. “Most notably, he extracted Daimler from Chrysler just in time in 2007 and then he rebuilt Mercedes’ product line, brand and Chinese business through this decade.”