Andreas Renschler, Mercedes-Benz operations chief and candidate to become parent Daimler AG (DAI)’s chief executive officer, quit suddenly, one year after swapping jobs with the other leading contender to succeed Dieter Zetsche.
Renschler, 55, who oversaw production and purchasing at the world’s third-largest luxury-car maker, asked to leave with immediate effect, the Stuttgart, Germany-based manufacturer said in a statement, without providing additional details.
The 25-year Daimler veteran, who previously ran the truck unit and switched jobs last year with Wolfgang Bernhard, decided to leave because his position at Mercedes didn’t give him enough decision-making ability, two people familiar with the matter said. Renschler preferred running trucks, where he had free rein with strategic planning, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.
"One of two CEO candidates just dropped out of the running," Max Warburton, an analyst with Bernstein Research in Singapore, said today in a note. "The market has always hoped for Bernhard."
Daimler’s shares rose as much as 1.7 percent to 63.90 euros and were up 0.5 percent at 10:31 a.m in Frankfurt. The stock has climbed 43 percent over the past 12 months, valuing the company at 67.5 billion euros ($92.4 billion).
Renschler’s departure, which the automaker said was by "mutual consent" and "unanimously" approved by the supervisory board, comes at a sensitive time for the German automaker. Mercedes is in the midst of ramping up production of the revamped C-Class, its best-selling model. The car will be produced in four factories globally, including Mercedes’s plant in Alabama for the first time.
"We very much regret he is leaving the company for personal reasons," CEO Zetsche said in the statement. Renschler "gave our commercial vehicles business a global reach" and "managed the ramp-up of the new S-Class in an outstanding manner."
The executive oversaw the world’s largest truck business for almost nine years, managing the unit’s investments in emerging markets such as Russia and India. Stuttgarter Zeitung reported today that Renschler may join Volkswagen AG to oversee its trucks business, which includes Sweden’s Scania AB and Munich-based MAN SE. VW spokesman Michael Brendel declined to comment.
Renschler’s work at the Mercedes car unit, which Zetsche leads, involved implementing efficiency measures with a goal of cutting a total of 2 billion euros in spending by the end of this year. Zetsche said this month that the automaker would meet that target early and might exceed it.
Renschler told the Wall Street Journal that he decided to leave for "a lot of reasons," including that the contenders for Zetsche’s job "are all more or less the same age. If Dieter wants to work for six years, I would not be happy to do my job." He plans to take time to consider his next step, the WSJ cited him as saying. Daimler declined to make Renschler available for comment when asked by Bloomberg News.
The announcement of the job switch between Renschler and Bernhard last February came the same day Zetsche received a contract extension of only three years, instead of the expected five, as Mercedes languished behind Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) and VW (VOW)’s Audi. Since then, sales have picked up on demand for models such as the CLA coupe and revamped S-Class sedan, outpacing growth recently at the two bigger rivals.
Daimler had to win over labor leaders to get Zetsche’s contract approved last February, and works council members of the supervisory board pushed through the job swap between Bernhard and Renschler as part of the deal in order to work directly with Renschler on the car unit’s reorganization, a person familiar said at the time.
There had been growing concern at the works council over a lack of input from labor leaders on the cost-cutting measures at the car division, the person said. Solutions to restructure the trucks unit under Renschler had always been found through negotiations between the company and labor representatives, the person said.
"We very much regret the resignation of Andreas Renschler," Silke Ernst, a spokeswoman for Daimler’s works council, said.
Markus Schaefer, 48, currently responsible for production planning at Mercedes, will assume Renschler’s duties, Daimler said in last night’s statement.
Bernhard, 53, last year took charge of the Daimler truck division that includes the Freightliner commercial-vehicle brand in the U.S. and Fuso in Japan, in addition to Mercedes-Benz heavy vehicles built in Europe and Brazil. He returned to Daimler in 2009 after a five-year absence that included a stint at VW, and took the Mercedes car division’s production post in 2010.
Zetsche and his predecessor Juergen Schrempp both worked in the commercial-vehicles division before becoming CEO.
"With Renschler gone, there’s one candidate less to succeed Zetsche as CEO," said Frank Schwope, a Hanover, Germany-based analyst with NordLB. "Bernhard is not the only remaining option. Bernhard has not always been uncontroversial and there’s the powerful bloc of employee representative to consider."