Mercedes vet Hubbert may delay retirement

FRANKFURT - Juergen Hubbert, the longtime head of Mercedes-Benz, says he might stay at DaimlerChrysler AG after his contract expires next year.

Hubbert, who also runs the company's Smart division, is scheduled to retire at the end of 2002, when he will be 63. But speculation inside DCX is that Chairman Juergen Schrempp will try to persuade Hubbert to stay.

Sources say DCX's supervisory board is pressuring Schrempp to keep the respected executive.

"I haven't been approached as yet," Hubbert said. "But if the supervisory board asked me, I would consider extending my contract."

Hubbert is the longest-serving boss of any major car division in the world. He has been the top executive at the Mercedes brand since 1987. DCX executives say his experience is invaluable for the entire group.

Within the company, there has been positive reaction to talk that Hubbert might stay beyond his current contract. Said a high-ranking Mercedes-Benz manager: "It would be the right signal. The brand needs Hubbert's knowledge and experience."

In recent years, DaimlerChrysler has sent a number of experienced managers to help at its struggling Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Freightliner operations. In turn, a number of mid-level managers have been promoted to top positions.

Hubbert says DCX has plenty of good people in Stuttgart, but says the company is short on experience.

"We had to take some very courageous decisions and put young managers into responsible positions a lot earlier than we would have done under normal circumstances," he said."We are certainly not short of talent, but we do lack mature people with experience. On the other hand, this is a great opportunity for the younger generation. These people are doing an excellent job."

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