Daimler names Kaellenius as CEO from 2019, Zetsche to become chairman

Key Points
  • Daimler AG says it will appoint Swede Ola Kaellenius as chief executive in 2019.
  • The move marks the first time a non-German will head the company.
  • Current CEO Dieter Zetsche has been proposed as chairman from 2021 onward.
  • Head of Production Markus Schaefer will become head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
CEO of German carmaker Daimler and Mercedes-Benz, Dieter Zetsche.
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

Daimler AG on Wednesday named Swede Ola Kaellenius as its next chief executive as part of a succession plan which also seeks to install current CEO Dieter Zetsche as a back-seat driver.

Daimler said Kaellenius will become CEO in 2019 and Zetsche would look to become chairman of the supervisory board in 2021, a step which needs to be approved by Daimler's shareholders.

"With Dieter Zetsche's intended appointment as Chairman of the Supervisory Board, we are ensuring continuity for the sustained success of Daimler AG. In Ola Kaellenius, we are appointing a recognized, internationally experienced and successful Daimler executive," Daimler's current chairman Manfred Boschoff said in a statement.

Kaellenius' appointment marks the first time that the Stuttgart-based inventor of the modern automobile will be headed by a non-German CEO.

The management change comes as the auto industry is looking at ways to take on rivals emerging from the technology sector in a race to put smartphone-hailed self-driving cars on the road.

Zetsche will step down from his positions on Daimler's management board and as head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, effective at the end of the annual shareholders' meeting in 2019, Daimler said.

Kaellenius, 49, will then be appointed as CEO of the group, and Markus Schaefer, head of production, will succeed him as head of development at Mercedes-Benz Cars.

Commenting on the nomination of Kaellenius Zetsche said: "In various positions at Daimler, Ola Kaellenius has earned not only my respect but also the recognition of his colleagues in very diverse areas. At the same time, he contributes a valuable international perspective."