ATLANTA -- Dietmar Exler, who led Mercedes to three straight U.S. luxury sales titles before a decline this year, announced his departure in a conference call with the brand’s dealer board Thursday afternoon.
The 51-year-old executive is expected to brief employees Friday. Mercedes-Benz spokesman Rob Moran declined comment.
Exler was mum about his future plans or who his successor might be, according to two dealers on the call.
Exler is said to have accepted a job outside the auto industry and is expected to remain based in Atlanta, a dealer source said.
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. He was vice president of sales for Mercedes-Benz USA before becoming CEO in January 2016.
Exler is said to have told the dealer board Thursday he was offered opportunities inside Daimler that would have required him to leave the U.S., which is something he didn’t want to do. Exler has lived in the U.S. for much of his career and attended the University of Chicago Law School.
“There’s nowhere for him to go within this country; he’s got the top position,” one of the sources said. “For him to stay within the company, he would have to move abroad, and he doesn’t want to do that.”
Exler’s exit from the leadership of Mercedes’ second-largest market after China comes amid a transition at parent Daimler AG. Retiring CEO Dieter Zetsche will hand over the reins to Ola Källenius after the company's annual general meeting on May 22.
Exler’s successor will take over as the U.S. auto industry braces for a slowdown. For the year, U.S. sales are forecast to come in below 17 million for the first time since 2014.
Mercedes is also feeling the pressure from a resurgent BMW. Powered by new and updated product launches this year, BMW has bested Mercedes in U.S. deliveries through the first four months.
Exler hinted at the challenges ahead when he spoke with Automotive News in April.
"When the market is growing, when there is more demand, it’s always a little easier,” Exler said. “Now, we are going back to hand-to-hand combat for market share. That makes everybody much more alert. Getting every product launch right is much more of an important topic in a tough market.”
Exler succeeded Steve Cannon in the CEO role in January of 2016.