Mercedes' factory in Alabama will have a pair of strong backers in Germany, after parent Daimler's supervisory board nominated two former Vance plant managers to the highest echelon of its executive ranks.
In one of the smoothest transitions in the company's modern history, Ola Källenius, head of group research and Mercedes-Benz Cars development, was chosen to replace veteran Dieter Zetsche as CEO after the annual general meeting on May 22.
Källenius, 49, will also become head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, maintaining the current dual role structure, while passing his portfolio to Mercedes production boss Markus Schäfer, 53.
"The choice of Källenius was well telegraphed in advance," said Frank Biller, auto analyst at Stuttgart-based LBBW bank. "The board could have waited a bit longer, but he's done such a good job and accumulated so many achievements that directors felt comfortable announcing the decision now."
An eloquent communicator methodically groomed for the job in recent years, the 6-foot-5-inch Swede will be the first non-German in the post. He also represents a generational changeover after more than a decade during which Zetsche ran the company. By the time Källenius takes over, he won't have reached age 50.
"In various positions at Daimler, Ola has earned not only my respect, but also the recognition of his colleagues in very diverse areas," Zetsche said in a statement to employees. The outgoing CEO has also praised him in the past as a man with "cars in his blood."