If the German magazine Focus is informed correctly, then Dr. Z’s days at Mercedes are counted. Focus heard that Wolfgang Bernhard will run Mercedes, while Dr. Z. will run all of Daimler. „In a second step, Bernhard could succeed Zetsche 2012 as Daimler CEO,“ says FOCUS. Currently, Bernhard is responsible for production and purchasing of Mercedes.
Bernhard is Daimler’s lost son. He was Zetsche’s sidekick during the Chrysler days in Detroit. He had been anointed as chief of Mercedes, but left in a huff after he couldn’t agree with Juergen Schrempp whether Mitsubishi should join the DaimerChrysler fray.
A few months later, her appeared as head of the Volkswagen group of brands (VW, Skoda, Bentley and Bugatti.) That didn’t last long either. At Volkswagen, Bernhard quickly earned the nickname “Terminator.” He didn’t make friends with the powerful unions. When Piech brought in Winterkorn as CEO, and as chief of the Volkswagen brand, Bernhard didn’t accept the demotion as head of production, and left.
When Cerberus bought Chrysler, he became a consultant. Some thought he would run Chrysler, but three months later, he was gone again. In February 2009, he was back at Daimler with a less than glorious job: Head of Mercedes vans. Since February 2010, he is in his new job at Mercedes. Everybody agrees that Bernhard is meant for something more important. Succeeding Zetsche won’t be easy: The two of then are considered bosom buddies.
According to Focus, the Daimler two-step has already been discussed with the supervisory board and the unions. The unions already agreed, with the proviso that Bernhard will be „closely monitored“ and should first get the job as „Mercedes boss on probation.“
A day later, an official Daimler spokesperson said the story is “a fabrication”
According to Automotive News Europe (ANE), Daimler reiterated in a statement that Zetsche will fulfil his contract until it runs out at the end of 2013.
The story of Bernhard wanting Zetsche’s job has been around for a while. During the Geneva Autoshow, Zetsche denied to journalists that Bernhard is his heir apparent at Daimler, reportedly saying: “It’s no secret that we worked well together and I’m happy to have him back. But he’s not my crown prince and he’s not my deputy.”