ATLANTA -- Incoming Mercedes-Benz USA boss Dietmar Exler will face mounting competition among luxury automakers in 2016 just as his brand reaches the peak of its product offensive.
Exler, 47, will take over as CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA on Friday, Jan. 1, from Steve Cannon, who had held the brand's top U.S. spot since 2012. Exler has been vice president of sales for Mercedes-Benz USA since January 2014.
On Feb. 1, Cannon, 54, will become CEO of AMB Group, parent company of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, the Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer and other interests. The company is owned by Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank. Cannon, 54, will be a consultant to Mercedes-Benz USA until Jan. 31.
Exler takes over as Mercedes prepares to launch nine new, redesigned or freshened vehicles in the U.S. in 2016. Cannon had called it the "zenith" of the brand's product offensive. It's a car-heavy pipeline for Mercedes next year, with the most-anticipated launch being the redesigned E-class sedan in early summer. The wave of cars lands as gasoline prices have plummeted, truck sales have soared and car sales have struggled.
The battle among luxury automakers has been fierce this year with BMW, Mercedes and Lexus slugging it out for the luxury sales crown. BMW widened its lead over Mercedes going into December after Mercedes stumbled with a double-digit November sales decline. Mercedes is still headed for a record 2015, powered by major gains in its truck sales.
Getting a good supply of the brand's hottest-selling nameplates will be one of Exler's coming challenges. Dealers are clamoring for more GLE midsize crossovers. The vehicle was freshened and renamed this year. Initial supplies of the redesigned GLC compact crossover, which went on sale at the end of November, and of the C-class coupe, going on sale next spring, are expected to be tight.
Exler, a native of Austria, has had various executive roles at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services USA, Daimler Financial Services Europe and the former DaimlerChrysler Financial. He worked at McKinsey & Co. before joining DaimlerChrysler Financial in 2002.