By on February 10, 2017

It looks like mustachioed, jeans-loving Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche will have to look elsewhere for a successor to the company throne.

Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Daimler Trucks & Buses, was thought by many a likely candidate to take on the top job once Dr. Z retires. Announced today, Bernhard is stepping down from his post and leaving the company he joined in 1994, even before his contract expires.

Infighting and age could have a lot to do with it.

Daimler maintains Bernhard hit the bricks for “personal reasons,” with supervisory board chair Manfred Bischoff stating, “We regret this resolution, but we have a number of outstanding managers to succeed. We thank Wolfgang Bernhard for his committed work and respect his personal decision.”

Bernhard’s contract ran until 2018, and today’s meeting was supposed to see it extended. Now, the man he might have replaced will take over his duties at Daimler Trucks & Buses.

While top company brass expressed their sorrow at his departure, sources told Reuters that the executive’s age played a factor in his decision. Company insiders claim that Bernhard, 56, was too old to be considered for the CEO job after labor leaders, riled by his restructuring plan, threw roadblocks in his career path. Zetsche’s contract was extended for another three years in 2016, and Daimler apparently wants someone at the helm who can stay on for a long time, sources claim.

Now that Bernhard is gone, his options for advancement could improve. There’s a possibility that the ex-Daimler executive has his eye on another company’s top position — perhaps Sergio Marchionne’s job. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ CEO plans to retire at the end of 2018.

[Image: Daimler AG]

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14 Comments on “Daimler Truck Boss, Apparently Too Old for a Promotion, Splits From Company...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Ageism is actually a legal/hiring thing now, he should sue.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Big American companies are typically smart enough never to mention age as a factor in screwing someone over.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Seems that he left voluntarily. Unless that’s fake news.

      • 0 avatar
        Garrett

        Of course he left voluntarily.

        His two choices were to keep his position and never advance, or leave.

        For some people, having no opportunity to advance isn’t an issue. For other people, it’s a deal breaker.

    • 0 avatar
      JRobUSC

      maybe that’s not a law in Germany? BMW has very openly had a mandatory retirement age of 60 for its top executives. A few years ago they were talking about upping it to 62, not sure what became of that. Either way though it wasn’t a secret. Dr. Zetchse’s new contract runs until he’s 65 so perhaps that’s their cutoff at Daimler.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Only if he plans to never work again.

      Who wants to hire someone who has a history of suing their employer?

      The best way to deal with unfair treatment is to find someplace that values you. I know that’s what most people don’t want to hear, but it’s the truth. Don’t focus on winning the battle: win the war.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The important word used by Bischoff was “resolution”. What was “resolved” by Bernhard’s resignation? Was it just labor leaders “throwing roadblocks in his career path” because they didn’t like his restructuring plan?

    Didn’t all those “outstanding managers” have anything to do with it? Somebody could get the impression the executive wing is a nest of backbiting and jockeying for position to be Dieter Zetsche’s successor.

    Bernhard may have taken one for the team by being point man for a restructuring the board must have known was necessary, only to find that the board couldn’t or wouldn’t pay him back for his effort. That’s my take on Bischoff’s “We regret this resolution…” statement.

  • avatar

    After Daimler took over Chrysler, Bernhard was in charge in Auburn Hills from 2000 to 2004, when he went back to Germany, supposedly to take the Daimler CEO position, but he was undercut by then chairman Jurgen Schremp, so he resigned to instead run VW for a couple of years till he was pushed out of that job by Ferdinand Piech. He’s generally seen as a close ally of Dieter Zetsche so he resignation is a surprise. Zetsche brought him back to Daimer after his stint at VW.

    For a bunch of boring guys in identical black suits, corporate politics at German automakers seems like something out of a soap opera.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    @Ronnie Schreiber
    “For a bunch of boring guys in identical black suits, corporate politics at German automakers seems like something out of a soap opera.”

    Got news for you, no different to any other Corporate landscape

  • avatar
    brn

    Unless Reuters releases their sources and the information around the claim, we’ve no idea how valid the ageism implication is.

    I guess releasing the full story doesn’t get people as wound up.

  • avatar
    Caboose

    He wants Sergio’s job? Really? Yes, it would be a tough job, but these guys love a challenge. I’m surprised because, if Sergio isn’t set to retire until the end of ’18, two years is an awfully long time to keep your name warm in the minds of board members by whom you might like to be hired. That sounds like unsubstantiated speculation to me.

    What does he plan on doing in the meantime? These guys usually don’t jump without having a landing spot. If he really does want Sergio’s job and doesn’t have anything of substance lined up for the interim, he’s not waiting in the wings; he’s just retired.

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