By Jens Meiners
Each week, our German correspondent slices and dices the latest rumblings, news, and quick-hit driving impressions from the other side of the pond. His byline may say Jens Meiners, but we simply call him . . . the Continental.
In a surprise move, the supervisory board of Daimler has extended CEO Dieter Zetsche’ s contract by three years. It had been expected that he would stay in office for another five years, which is customary in Germany. The contract for research and development chief Thomas Weber has also been renewed for only three years, despite Daimler’s ledership role in future technologies. At the same time, current production and purchasing chief Wolfgang Bernhard, formerly head of AMG (he also was Chrysler CFO and Volkswagen brand CEO), becomes head of Daimler’s truck division. He swaps positions with Andreas Renschler, whose resume includes heading up Daimler’s Smart division.
The reshuffling of the board reveals that things are not all smiles in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. Wolfgang Bernhard is being groomed as Zetsche’s successor, but he has never gotten along smoothly with the employee side of things, a faction which enjoys significant clout on the supervisory board. Now Renschler is back in the game. But it is also possible that 59-year-old Zetsche will get a new contract three years from now.
Over the next few years, Daimler needs to fix its China business, which is lagging far behind Audi and BMW. The Mercedes brand’s reputation largely hinges on the success of the upcoming next-generation S-class; the smashing success of the (fantastically engineered) new A-class will need to be sustained over the next few years. On the design front, Mercedes might wish to strike a balance between appealing to those coveted buyers who wear their baseball caps backwards, and the (currently poorly attended) rest of us.
Betting on India
Daimler has opened its largest research and development center outside of Germany—and not in China or America, but in Bangalore, India. The country “is one of the core markets for [the] growth strategy Mercedes-Benz 2020, and it has enormous potential,” says board member Thomas Weber. In 1996, Daimler-Benz started kicked off its research and development activities in India with ten employees. Today, India is a center of competence for IT, electrics/electronics (EE), as well as computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided engineering (CAE). The center’s opening is good news for the company and for Weber, and I was hoping to be there to report in more detail. But, alas, the Indian embassy did not process my visa application in time.
Fiat’s Present and Lancia’s Past
Fiat has lowered the price of the still-fresh Panda. In Germany, it now starts at €8,990 (including 19-percent sales tax). Fiat still sells the previous generation model, called the Panda Classic, alongside the new one. The price cut is not a very good sign, but struggling Fiat needs all the sales it can get. …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver