DOUGLAS A. BOLDUC

How a pope inspired Zetsche to become a Mercedes man

Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.
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A religious experience set Dieter Zetsche on his path to becoming CEO of Mercedes-Benz. During the launch of the new S class in Hamburg last night, Zetsche said what he remembers most from a pastoral visit that Pope Paul VI made to the area where he was living as a young man was the Mercedes that his holiness was being driven in.

Mercedes' top-of-the-line model wasn't known as the S class at that time, which didn't matter to Zetsche. He said he knew right then and there that he had to figure out a way to someday get behind the wheel of a car like that, "without having to become pope."

During his nearly 40 years with Mercedes parent Daimler, Zetsche said he has been around to see the automaker launch five of the S-class' six generations, including the newest model, which goes on sale in Europe in July and in September in the United States.

The CEO also revealed another fun fact about himself during the flagship sedan's debut: His absolute favorite part of the car is its smell.

Said Zetsche: "It's like coming home."

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com.

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