Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the company’s clarification of Speeks’ oversight of Mercedes-Benz Canada.
ATLANTA -- Nicholas Speeks, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, has taken a leave of absence as of Friday morning, the company said late Friday.
It's unclear what prompted the move and Speeks is not expected to return as CEO, said a person familiar with the situation.
Drew Slaven, Mercedes-Benz USA vice president of marketing, will be the CEO on an interim basis, the company said.
Speeks, 61, an outspoken Englishman, took over Mercedes' top job in North America last fall. The executive had steered Mercedes-Benz sales in China for more than six years.
Under his stewardship, Mercedes China grew at a 20 percent annual rate, significantly outpacing the industry and the premium market. Speeks previously ran Mercedes-Benz Japan and has worked for the company in Dubai, Vietnam and Germany.
The vacancy at the top comes as Mercedes is navigating the coronavirus, which has dinged demand and darkened the near-term economic outlook.
Mercedes delivered 59,461 vehicles, excluding commercial vans, in the second quarter, down 22 percent from a year ago.
But even before COVID-19 cases locked down much of the U.S. retail network, Speeks was contending with a softening market for luxury vehicles and a resurgent competitor in BMW. Speeks’ responsibilities included oversight of Mercedes-Benz Canada.
"The company is being pushed to limits you would have not normally pushed it," Speeks said in June. "Some difficult decisions have had to be taken, not only with us but also within our dealer body."