* CEO Zetsche's prospects to stay rise with performance
* Andreas Renschler resigned, citing personal reasons
* Renschler: prospect of Zetsche staying a factor - WSJ
* Daimler succession issue not yet decided
(Recasts throughout, adds sources, detail, background)
FRANKFURT, Jan 29 Daimler's chief
executive may have his contract extended beyond 2016 on the back
of last year's recovery, analysts and executives said on
Wednesday after the surprise departure of a Mercedes executive
who was tipped for the top.
Succession has been a divisive issue at Daimler, and last
year the supervisory board extended 60-year-old Chief Executive
Dieter Zetsche's contract by three years, instead of an expected
five, as well as reshuffling senior managers to gauge the
potential of other leadership candidates.
Since then, Daimler has narrowed the sales gap with its
premium-car rivals BMW and Audi, and Mercedes-Benz has
launched well-received new products.
Zetsche remains head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, where Andreas
Renschler was head of manufacturing. He will leave the company
with immediate effect, Daimler said late on Tuesday, citing
His going, Daimler's recovery, and Zetsche's recent charm
offensive toward labour unions, may bolster his prospects of
another contract extension.
"The latest move means Zetsche's position is uncontested,"
one Daimler employee, who declined to be named, said.
No successor has been chosen and Zetsche's contract terms
are unaltered, a spokeswoman for the company said on Wednesday.
Renschler, 55, took on his new job at Mercedes in April as
part of the executive reshuffle, which made him feel he had
become a pawn in a power struggle between the supervisory board
and Zetsche, a person familiar with his thinking said.
Renschler's contract was due to expire in 2018.
"In our view his move from head of Daimler trucks to running
Mercedes production was a step backwards," analysts at ISI said.
In April, Daimler's chairman said that Renschler's move from
Trucks, in favour of 53-year-old Wolfgang Bernhard, would allow
both men to showcase their leadership potential.
The Wall Street Journal said that one reason for Renschler's
resignation might be that he was having to wait too long to take
the top job.
"If Dieter wants to work for six years, I would not be happy
to do my job," Renschler was quoted as saying by the paper.
Daimler said the comments had been misunderstood.
"Renschler's comments have been taken out of context. He
merely wanted to point out that he is not an obvious succession
candidate because he is of a similar age as Dieter Zetsche, and
would therefore not be a candidate to lead Daimler when Zetsche
retires, whenever this may happen," a spokesman said.
Analysts cite three Daimler executives who are
seen as contenders if Zetsche's contract is not extended.
Among them is Daimler's 54-year-old Chief Financial Officer
Bodo Uebber, Bernhard, and Hubertus Troska a 53-year-old head of
its China operations, Berstein Research analysts said in a note.
OFF TO VOLKSWAGEN
Analysts say Renschler may take a job at Volkswagen
to could take a job at Volkswagen to help 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.
Two sources at Volkswagen said they had no knowledge of a
job offered by VW to Renschler. Volkswagen declined to comment.
Volkswagen's management in Wolfsburg is growing frustrated
with a lack of progress forging a truck alliance designed to
reap cost savings and take on Daimler, two sources at VW group
familiar with the matter told Reuters.
But a clause in Renschler's contract prevented an immediate
such switch to a competitor, a Daimler spokeswoman said.
(Reporting by Edward Taylor, Ilona Wissenbach, Andreas Cremer
and Jan Schwartz; Editing by Louise Ireland)