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Wolfgang Bernhard will take key post at Mercedes-Benz

Fri, 05 Feb 2010

Wolfgang Bernhard will take a key role at Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz Cars unit, the company said today.

Bernhard will join Daimler's management board with responsibility for Mercedes-Benz Cars' production and procurement and for the Mercedes-Benz vans division, a statement said.

Bernhard, 49, was Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche's right-hand man at Chrysler before Daimler sold its former U.S. unit.

He was due to become head of Mercedes cars in 2004 before union opposition to his appointment and disagreements with then-CEO Juergen Schrempp led to his demotion and eventual departure from the company.

After a stint as Volkswagen brand CEO between 2005 and 2007, Bernhard returned to Daimler last April to take a job as head of the company's low-profile vans business--a move seen as a stepping stone back into Daimler's executive ranks.

Bernhard's new appointment leaves uncertain the future of Zetsche's No. 2, Rainer Schmueckle, who is Daimler's chief operating officer and is responsible for production and procurement at Mercedes.

Germany's Manager Magazin said Schmueckle will leave the automaker. Daimler's statement said discussions are being held with Schmueckle. A Daimler spokesman declined to comment on whether Schmueckle would stay with the company. He also declined to say when a final decision on Schmueckle's future with Daimler would be made.

Schmueckle is credited with successful restructuring programs at Daimler but he has come under fire from union bosses for his tough approach to cutting costs.

By Paul McVeigh- Automotive News Europe