FRANKFURT Jan 29 Three Daimler
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
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
. 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 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
Analysts said Renschler, previously head of Daimler Trucks,
could help Volkswagen integrate its trucks businesses: MAN
, Scania and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.
Combined, VW's truck, buses and van units have 35 billion
euros ($48 billion) of commercial vehicles sales, similar to
Daimler, the world's No. 1 truck maker, whose commercial
vehicles sales are about 44 billion, ISI Global analysts said.
"The question why Renschler is leaving is easy to answer. In
our view his move from head of Daimler trucks to running
Mercedes production was a step backwards," ISI analysts said in
a note on Wednesday. "Volkswagen could be interested bringing in
Renschler to run VW's trucks businesses."
Volkswagen declined to comment.
A Daimler spokeswoman said a termination clause Renschler's
contract prevented an immediate switch to a competitor.
Shares in Daimler were up 0.3 percent at 1033 GMT,
underperforming a 0.8 percent rise in the DAX. VW
shares traded 0.5 percent lower.
Renschler took on his new job at Mercedes in April as part
of a broader executive reshuffle, a move he was unhappy with.
At the time, Renschler switched jobs with Mercedes-Benz
production and purchasing chief Wolfgang Bernhard, in a move
that Daimler's chairman said would allow both men to showcase
Bernhard is still seen as a contender to get the top job at
Daimler but his management style has met resistance among
members of the company's powerful labour unions, which control
half the seats on the supervisory board.
(Reporting by Edward Taylor and Ilona Wissenbach; Editing by