FRANKFURT -- Bidding farewell to the company he led for more than a decade, Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche urged sweeping cost cuts to prepare the carmaker for unprecedented industry upheaval.
“Everything is under scrutiny,” Zetsche said Wednesday at the annual shareholder meeting in Berlin, citing costs, investments and the Mercedes-Benz maker’s product range. “We cannot and will not be satisfied with the current level of profitability.”
The walrus-mustached Zetsche, 66, and CFO Bodo Uebber, 59, who is also leaving, turned Daimler from an industrial conglomerate that included holdings in aviation into a company focused on upscale passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Among their key decisions was selling Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management in 2007 before the financial crisis pushed the U.S. mass-market manufacturer into bankruptcy.
Following the ill-fated merger with Chrysler, the duo shepherded the painful restructuring of Mercedes-Benz after quality woes dented sales. This included axing thousands of jobs, shaking up design and expanding the brand’s compact-car offerings, culminating in winning back the global luxury-car crown from BMW AG in 2016.
Zetsche and Uebber both received applause for their farewell remarks from some 6,000 shareholders gathered in Berlin, showing support despite eroding earnings in recent quarters and a weak start to the year.
“We are not satisfied with the latest quarterly results and our share price,” Zetsche said.