Daimler AG (DAI), the world’s third- largest maker of luxury vehicles, appointed Hubertus Troska to its management board to revive sales growth in China as its Mercedes-Benz brand loses ground to Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi.
Troska, currently head of Daimler’s Mercedes trucks unit, will take over the new position to become Daimler’s eighth board member starting tomorrow, the Stuttgart, Germany-based carmaker said today in a statement.
“With the decision to establish a board of management position specifically for this market, we are underscoring the strategic importance of China,” Chairman Manfred Bischoff said in the statement. “We continue to see great potential there.”
Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche is seeking to shore up operations in China after Mercedes sales in the world’s largest car market slumped 6.6 percent in November. The decline contrasts with a 26 percent gain by Audi, the segment leader in China, and a 62 percent surge by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG.
The November drop dragged down Mercedes’s growth in China for the year to 4.2 percent. The brand’s sales in the country totaled 177,301 cars and sport-utility vehicles in the first 11 months of 2012, less than half Audi’s 370,559 deliveries there and trailing BMW’s 295,974 autos.
“It’s a decisive step,” said Frank Biller, a Stuttgart- based analyst at Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg. “China is important for all the carmakers, and the appointment shortens the chain of command at Daimler.”
Daimler rose as much as 1 percent to 39.84 euros and was trading up 0.7 percent at 12:32 p.m. in Frankfurt. The stock has climbed 17 percent this year, valuing the manufacturer at 42.4 billion euros ($55.2 billion).
As part of its effort to boost sales in China, Daimler is combining two separate sales units -- one for imported vehicles and other for locally made cars -- into a single entity.
The lack of growth in China has held back Mercedes a year after CEO Zetsche announced a goal of overtaking Munich-based BMW in global sales by the end of the decade. Mercedes deliveries through November rose 5.1 percent to 1.19 million cars. BMW-brand sales increased 11 percent to 1.39 million vehicles, while Audi reported a 13 percent jump to 1.34 million.
Troska, 52, has worked for 24 years at Daimler, where he has also served as a manager for the trucks division in Mexico and the U.S. and worked in Turkey for the Mercedes car unit. He was head of Mercedes’s AMG high-performance auto business from 2003 to March 2005.
“With the new China board of management position, we will ensure that all aspects of this dynamic market are dealt with directly,” Zetsche said in the statement. “We have found the right man for this task.”
Troska’s contract runs through Dec. 31, 2015. He will be replaced at the Mercedes commercial-vehicle business by Stefan Buchner, who currently oversees procurement and powertrain operations at the Daimler Trucks division, Daimler said. The carmaker also extended the contract of Andreas Renschler, the head of the Daimler Trucks division, until Sept. 30, 2018.
Ulrich Walker, the head of Daimler’s operations in northeast Asia, will retire after more than 30 years at the company. He will assist Troska in a “transitional phase,” the German manufacturer said.
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