Dieter Zetsche in March 2017 in a Mercedes AMG C 63 Cabriolet.

Dieter Zetsche in March 2017 in a Mercedes AMG C 63 Cabriolet.

Tobias Schwarz, AFP via Getty Images

  • Dieter Zetsche has long been the star of Daimler. He was considered a maker who had driven the Stuttgart car maker back to the top of the world.
  • But the current Daimler crisis is also causing Zetsche experts. He is responsible for the diesel affair and overslept the turn to e-mobility, it is said.
  • As a result, up to 30,000 jobs could be at stake. Zetsche, on the other hand, receives a record pension.

Dieter Zetsche was the star of Daimler. A man with mustache and bald head, as idiosyncratic as eloquent. One who himself in the US commercials as Dr. Z advertised his group’s cars. The Daimler freed from the unfortunate marriage to Chrysler. From the conservative, stale Stuttgart stable formed a cool, modern, more feminine group. The distinctive face became a silver star.

It’s been a good year since Zetsche left Daimler. After 13 years at the top of the group. According to the plans of the company, Daimler’s star should not rest for a long time. The ex-boss should come back as early as 2021. This time as a supervisory board, even as a supervisory board chair. Daimler had already communicated this in September 2018.

The automaker wanted to guarantee that the Zetsche success story would continue. Far beyond 2019. Even then, doubts about the star of Daimler increased.

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Top in the world: Thanks to Dieter Zetsche, the Mercedes factory team led by superstar Lewis Hamilton has been the measure of all things in Formula 1 for years.

Top in the world: Thanks to Dieter Zetsche, the Mercedes factory team led by superstar Lewis Hamilton has been the measure of all things in Formula 1 for years.

After Zetsche’s departure: Daimler’s profits roar into the basement

Already in 2019 it was clear that Zetsche’s successor Ola Källenius would not have an easy time of it. This indicated that the diesel affair would cost the company billions of dollars. Daimler is accused of tricking exhaust systems. The group rejects this.

It had long been clear that the switch to new drives, hydrogen and electric cars would make Daimler difficult. The Stuttgart company, like the German competitors Volkswagen and BMW, had slept through the latter trend for a long time.

Even back then it was clear: At Daimler, fundamental changes will be necessary, cuts will be inevitable. In fact, Daimler became a restructuring case, profits plummeted, the grumbling among investors and analysts grew.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Corona worsened the situation further. In the second quarter, the Stuttgart-based carmaker lost billions. This is one of the reasons why the austerity measures are likely to be even greater than previously thought. There should be up to 30,000 fewer jobs. This could mean that every tenth job at the Group could be lost worldwide.

It is indisputable that Daimler only had to announce most of the bad news after Zetsche’s departure. It was Källenius who had to lower the profit forecast twice in a short time in 2019 due to the diesel affair. It was again Källenius who had to announce a comprehensive savings program in order to be able to finance the shift to digitalization and e-mobility even with falling revenues.

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Has inherited a difficult legacy: Daimler boss Ola Källenius.

Has inherited a difficult legacy: Daimler boss Ola Källenius.

Marijan Murat, picture alliance via Getty Images

Expert is not worried about the future of Daimler

However, Källenius is not to blame for the crisis, says industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer in an interview with Business Insider. On the contrary. “Källenius made many right decisions. He acted quickly and consistently, dovetailed production and development, made the crisis-ridden van division a top priority and quickly secured the Group’s liquidity in the Corona crisis. And he pushed ahead with the expansion of e-mobility with his own e-car platforms. ”Dudenhöffer is therefore not worried about the future of the group. “The good Daimler years will only come when the electric car variant of the A- or S-Class with a range of more than 700 kilometers comes onto the market.”

Dudenhöffer is more critical of the legacy of Källenius’ predecessor. Zetsche’s successes in modernizing the brand or ending the Chrysler merger are undisputed. “Without him, Daimler would not exist today.” However, like other German managers in the automotive industry, Zetsche should have accelerated the switch to e-mobility. The diesel affair also casts a shadow over his term in office.

The criticism that Daimler wants to bring back its former star in 2021 has at least increased in view of Zetsche’s legacy problems. Susanne Preuß, Stuttgart correspondent for the influential “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” in business circles, even commented: “A sensible supervisory board should be able to revise decisions. The Zetsche era should remain history. “

Hope for a golden future: Design of the E variant of the S-Class.

Hope for a golden future: Design of the E variant of the S-Class.

Daimler

After Daimler says goodbye: Zetsche receives princely pension

It is still largely unclear who has to leave the 300,000-strong Daimler workforce. At least in the past, Källenius always insisted that no one would be released against his will. The Mercedes-Benz Cars production network alone currently has eight vehicle factories worldwide, including the German factories in Sindelfingen and Bremen.

On the other hand, it is clear that the Smart plant belonging to the group in Hambach, France, is for sale. Zetsche announced two years ago after a working meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron that his group wanted to invest heavily in Hambach. Instead, the electric car variant of the Smart is to be built in China in the future.

Also read: Tesla, Porsche, Mercedes: You will see these 26 new electric cars on the road by 2025

Again, it is unclear whether Zetsche can take up his position on the Supervisory Board in 2021. In the end, this will be decided by the Daimler shareholders. The ex-boss should also be financially secure without this job. After all, according to research by “Bild am Sonntag”, Zetsche has been receiving around 4,250 euros in pension per day since he left the company. He holds the record among the ex-CEOs in retirement.

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