Wolfgang Bernhard, 43, will replace his mentor as Mercedes-Benz boss.
The Chrysler group chief operating officer takes over for the retiring Jürgen Hubbert August 1.
Hubbert discovered Bernhard and put him in charge of S-class production at Mercedes' Sindelfingen, Germany, assembly plant.
Bernhard caught the eye of DaimlerChrysler boss Jürgen Schrempp while helping Hubbert turn around Mercedes in the 1990s.
"Schrempp was impressed with Bernhard during the start of S-class production in 1997," said Hartmut Schick, DaimlerChrysler's top spokesman. "It was one of the first smooth launches that we had. He was so impressed with Bernhard that he sent him to AMG and sometimes invited him to his office."
Sometimes Bernhard would visit Schrempp -- uninvited -- after taking over the automaker's AMG high-performance unit in 1999.
He once charged into Schrempp's office with a binder full of financial information that he had to submit to headquarters every month.
"Wolfgang slapped it down on the desk and said it was stupid for a small company and that he needed five people to do this monthly report," said Schick.
"Schrempp liked that and said AMG didn't have to do the report. Schrempp likes people who challenge things."
Bernhard is considered a potential CEO candidate for the future, one analyst said, "He is clearly one of Schrempp's men."
Since arriving at Chrysler in November 2002, Bernhard has reworked the group's product lineup, adding such risky propositions as the Chrysler Crossfire coupe and presiding over the shift to rear-wheel-drive family cars for Chrysler and Dodge. Now, as his products start hitting showrooms, Bernhard heads back to Germany to lead Mercedes-Benz.
"He is seen as having done a good job at Chrysler but it's far from done," said the analyst. "People would have preferred to see him stay at Chrysler and see through the launches."
Company insiders say Bernhard has a keen eye for detail and it is common knowledge that he is a horsepower freak. He caught the industry's attention when he roared on stage at the 2003 Detroit auto show straddling a 500hp, 10-cylinder Dodge Toma-hawk motorcycle, (photo, left).
Chrysler considered asking actor Sylvester Stallone to debut the Toma-hawk but decided it would be better to have Bernhard ride it because then the bike would be the star.
This year he drove the 862hp Chrysler ME Four-Twelve supercar on stage at the Detroit auto show in January.
Like the ME Four-Twelve, Bernhard has been a striking and controversial figure in Auburn Hills, Michigan. He busied himself with such marginal toys as the Tomahawk and his relationship with suppliers was far from smooth.
Once in Europe full time, the new Mr. Mercedes will face issues such as CO2 reduction and deteriorating customer satisfaction in the brand.
Jens Meiners contributed