VW offers former Mercedes exec Renschler big budget to be trucks chief, report says

Renschler oversaw Daimler's truck business for almost nine years.
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FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) -- Volkswagen Group is offering former Mercedes production chief Andreas Renschler a substantial budget to bring in more people to push integration among its three commercial vehicles brands, sources said.

VW is trying to hire former Renschler to succeed trucks boss Leif Oestling as early as this year, two people familiar with the matter said.

Renschler oversaw Daimler's truck business for almost nine years, managing the division's investments in emerging markets such as Russia and India before becoming Mercedes production head last April. The 55-year old was seen as a strong contender to succeed Dieter Zetsche in the top job at Daimler.

On Tuesday, Daimler said Renschler was leaving the company "for personal reasons" with immediate effect.

Renschler is attractive to VW, which is seeking cost savings through closer cooperation among the Scania, MAN and VW commercial-vehicles nameplates, because of his extensive experience in Daimler's truck unit, the world's biggest by revenue. "It would be positive for VW to hire a successful executive from the largest truck manufacturer," said Frank Schwope, a Hanover, Germany-based analyst at NordLB. "As an external candidate, he's also less involved in any internal sensitivities between Scania and MAN."

Legal advisers are looking to minimize the non-compete period in Renschler's contract, arguing the role running VW's heavy-truck operations wouldn't make him a direct competitor with Daimler's passenger-car operations, where he most recently worked, one person said.

VW officials declined to comment.

Non-compete

Zetsche said on Thursday in Munich that Renschler won't be allowed to go to a rival for the "foreseeable future."

"Generally our executives have a lock-up period that bars them from working for a competitor for a certain period of time," Joerg Howe, a Daimler spokesman, said on Thursday. "This period is typically six or 12 months." He declined to comment on Renschler's contract.

VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech said on Thursday he couldn't comment yet on Renschler because the automaker's supervisory board still needed to decide on the matter, the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper cited him as saying.

"Afterward you can say, the best lure the best," Piech added, according to the report.

Oestling, whose contract expires next year, was involved in approaching Renschler as a possible successor, one of the people said.

Cost savings

Under 68-year-old Oestling, VW has pushed to save 200 million euros ($271 million) in costs annually through cooperation between Germany's MAN, Swedish truckmaker Scania and VW-brand commercial vehicles. Joint projects are under way in purchasing, development, information technology, logistics, finance and legal affairs.

Volkswagen has worked to streamline automaking costs by standardizing parts and technology across car brands such as Skoda, Seat, the VW nameplate and Audi. That has helped boost profitability as the company seeks to become the world's biggest automaker by 2018. VW is now working to adapt the strategy for its commercial-vehicle operations.

Daimler's truck marques include Freightliner in the United States, Fuso in Japan and Mercedes in Europe and Brazil.

"Depending on when Renschler joins VW, he could theoretically even become one of the candidates to eventually succeed Martin Winterkorn as VW CEO -- he's got experience in both the trucks and passenger-car business," Schwope said.

Renschler, who switched jobs last year at Daimler with Wolfgang Bernhard, decided to leave because his position at Mercedes didn't give him enough decision-making ability, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday. Renschler preferred running trucks, where he had free rein with strategic planning, the people said.

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