Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz division, the world’s third-biggest maker of luxury vehicles, appointed the head of the AMG high-performance business to oversee sales as the company reorganizes how it deals with customers.
Ola Kaellenius, 44, will succeed Mercedes sales chief Joachim Schmidt, who’s retiring at the end of the year after turning 65 this month. The change is effective in October, Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler said today in a statement.
Daimler also said that sales, including at its banking unit, will be organized more strictly according to business lines, while country-based functions will be “streamlined.” Schmidt’s retirement, which comes two years before his contract expires, may mark the start of a larger generation change at the manufacturer, which also owns the Smart city-car brand and Mercedes, Freightliner and Fuso truck divisions.
“Schmidt embodies the Mercedes brand,” said Christoph Stuermer, a Frankfurt-based analyst with IHS Automotive. “He steered the brand relatively unscathed through several management and strategy changes. Mercedes is still one of the most valuable brands in the automotive industry.”
Kaellenius, a Swedish national, led Mercedes-Benz’s high-performance engines business in Brixworth, England, and he was manager of the Mercedes auto plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, before taking the helm at AMG in April 2010.
“With Ola Kaellenius, we have someone with cars in his blood taking over the reins,” Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche said in the statement.
Schmidt, who holds a doctorate in mathematics, has served Daimler for more than 34 years. After joining the development team at the company, then called Daimler-Benz, he worked in sales and marketing for more than two decades. He became head of Mercedes sales in October 2009.
Schmidt indicated some time ago internally that he wanted to hand over responsibilities after his 65th birthday, said a person with direct knowledge of his plans who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.
Daimler said early this year that it’s following corporate-governance practice in giving three-year contracts to top executives who are at least 60 years old or approaching that age, rather than the five years standard in German industry. Zetsche, who’s now 60, received a contract extension for the shorter period in February. Schmidt’s contract at Daimler was prolonged in March 2012 by three years until the end of September 2015.
“Joachim Schmidt understands and embodies Mercedes-Benz like almost no one else,” Zetsche said in today’s statement. “Under his leadership, the brand has conquered many new regions.”
The reorganization of sales at Daimler, which will also make its van and bus operations responsible for their own customers, will involve Schmidt, who “will continue to oversee the implementation of the new structure,” Bettina Singhartinger, a spokeswoman, said by phone.
“We will reduce complexity, become faster and more flexible, and will give our divisions comprehensive responsibility to manage their business efficiently and farsightedly,” Zetsche said in a separate statement. “This is not primarily a matter of cost advantages, but of more direct customer relations and of course of increasing our unit sales.”
A successor for Kaellenius at AMG will be announced shortly, Daimler said.