Daimler insiders in Germany want the promotion of global sales director Ola Kaellenius to the management board this month to be seen as a routine personnel decision -- and nothing more.
That's because Kaellenius, 45, is regarded as a possible successor to 61-year-old CEO Dieter Zetsche, and company sources say they are anxious to avoid speculation that could weaken Zetsche before his contract is due to expire at the end of 2016.
Some German industry-watchers think Volkswagen's recent hiring of BMW executive Herbert Diess to head the VW brand will focus attention on Zetsche. Martin Winterkorn will cease his dual responsibilities as CEO of both the Volkswagen Group and VW brand. And so Zetsche may come under pressure to follow suit by ceding the reins at Mercedes.
Zetsche has argued that he is a better Daimler CEO when also anchored in its largest business.
Analyst Arndt Ellinghorst, head of global automotive research at Evercore ISI in London, argues that whoever runs Daimler's flagship luxury brand de facto runs the company. And he thinks Kaellenius will soon get that job.
"The money is earned by Mercedes and the guy who's running it -- not by the guy who is overseeing the group," Ellinghorst said. "So at the end of the day, the operating CEO of the brand is ultimately more important because it is under his regime that the cash is generated."