(Corrects paragraph 1 to add phrase "for Mercedes" and
paragraph 3 to read "Mercedes" instead of "the plant")
* Renschler takes over from Bernhard
* Needs to deliver 2 bln euros cost cuts
* Focus is on concessions from unions and suppliers
By Christiaan Hetzner
SINDELFINGEN, Germany, June 12 Daimler's
latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine rolled off the
assembly line for the first time on Wednesday, coinciding with
the first appearance of another important newcomer - the
company's head of production for Mercedes.
Andreas Renschler talked to the press at the group's
manufacturing plant in Sindelfingen, southwest Germany, for the
first time since taking on his new role in April.
Renschler faces some big challenges to deliver the bulk of
2 billion euros ($2.65 billion) in planned cost cuts at Mercedes
by the end of next year.
Daimler has been struggling to compete with its rivals in
small cars as well as match their growth in China. The
Stuttgart-based company has fallen further behind German rivals
BMW and Volkswagen.
Renschler also takes on the tough job of extracting
productivity gains and labour concessions from German unions at
He pledged to carry on with the efficiency programme
initiated by his predecessor Wolfgang Bernhard but is prepared
to adopt a conciliatory approach.
"This is not about doing something against (the will) of the
works council or against the management board. The goal of the
entire workforce is to be productive and efficient," he told
reporters. "Ask the works council, they would tell you the same
thing - we have a common interest to make the German plants more
One main target is to cut the average hours needed to build
each vehicle from around 40 currently to 30 in the medium-term.
The new S-Class limousine will help here. When production is
fully ramped up, the car will be built as much as 20 percent
faster compared to its predecessor.
Renschler also has to take on the group's supplier base,
after also inheriting the post of purchasing chief. This part of
his job will include a campaign to try to offset 6 billion euros
of material costs that include new features such as multimedia
He needs to win over both suppliers and the workforce to
help him achieve some 60 percent of the 2 billion euro savings
But auto industry experts say Renschler has the easy-going
demeanour needed to take on such a challenging assignment.
Replacing McKinsey man Bernhard with Renschler, a fellow
Swabian with whom the workforce can identify, is the first
signal in a long time that they are finally heading in the right
direction, said Helmut Becker, head of the IWK think tank in
Munich and author of several books on the auto industry.
Renschler himself pointed to his roots in the region.
"It may sound a bit emotional, but I'll tell you anyway. I
grew up roughly 20 kilometres away from here and after I
graduated from the university I started here in Sindelfingen (in
Swabia) for Daimler 25 years ago, so it's a privilege to be here
again," he said.
($1 = 0.7533 euros)
(Reporting By Christiaan Hetzner. Editing by Jane Merriman)