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These tasks are waiting for Ola Källenius

With a straight face, Ola Källenius follows the Daimler Annual General Meeting on Wednesday. He is not yet in the center of attention, nor does he have to talk. Everything revolves around the outgoing CEO Dieter Zetsche, the supervisory board chief Manfred Bischoff in the fair Berlin as "exception manager" adopted.

Meanwhile, his 49-year-old successor can look to his right on a red Mercedes CLA. "With his muscular shoulders and his broad tail, he draws everyone's attention," writes the corporate marketing on the car, which is available as petrol and in the diesel variant.

A car that stands for the old Daimler. On his left Källenius sees a Mercedes EQC, symbol of the new, the greener Daimler. With its first electric off-road vehicle, which has so far only been available to selected customers, the Group has introduced a tentative mobility turnaround. Too timid, if possible.

At least many of the shareholders, who now have their say. They complain that the Daimler share at a historic low dümpele, other automakers had left Daimler in the electric mobility, also suspected of exhaust emissions and impending penalties burdened the company.

"Ola, you see what the expectations of the shareholders is," says supervisor Bischoff to the new Daimler boss. Instead of an answer Källenius only smiles and waves to the plenum.

Mercedes EQC

With the EQC Daimler has brought the first purely electrically powered Mercedes SUV on the road.

Even in normal times, the driver's seat at Daimler is more than just a chief in the Dax. The car company with the star is one of the permanently installed Mythenmobiliar the economic history.

In the positive as in the negative, the company embodies how we Germans see each other and are seen: unparalleled in the pursuit of technical perfection and innovation. Most exemplary in the social partnership between workforce and management. But also hierarchical, inflexible and plagued by a tendency to arrogance and Grossmansucht.

It was these bad qualities that drove Daimler into crisis in the past decades: from the failed dream of transforming the carmaker into an "integrated technology company", to the "World AG", which was to be created through the merger with Chrysler.

When Dieter Zetsche took over the company 13 years ago, survival was in acute danger. But the man with the mustache brought the Stuttgart again to build desirable cars. Under his regime, the Mercedes brand became more emotional, louder, more horsepower. At the same time, however, Daimler neglected to invest in alternative drive concepts and performed tricks on exhaust emissions, of which it is still uncertain whether they were just dirty or even illegal.

Now, with the handover to Källenius, the group is again facing a challenge. The Swede has to catch up in a hurry, which came too short in the era of Zetsche: Fleet consumption must sink significantly in order to minimize the threat of EU penalties for CO2 emissions and to keep their own business model socially acceptable. This is only possible with alternative drive concepts.

But so far, although Mercedes has seven different SUV series on the market, but not a single short-term available electric car. Added to this are necessary investments in the two other megatrends in the automotive business, autonomous driving and car and ride sharing.

G-Class

Mercedes has seven SUV series, but no short-term available electric model.

(Photo: Daimler AG)

These investments must be financed from a decline in operating income and a recently significantly weaker cash inflow in the industrial business. To stay in the voice of the car industry: Källenius has to tear the wheel at full speed.

He has to push through the cost brakes and at the same time invest in new business areas at full throttle. And he must have reached the new strategic goal with the group, before the capital tank was empty. And with all this he should still keep his fellow travelers in a mood, the workforce as the shareholders, the suppliers as well as the policy.

That sounds like a job for a stuntman with entertainer qualities. But that's exactly what Källenius is not. His companions and interlocutors repeatedly come up with the same attributes for the head of Daimler in Sweden: "calm and clear", "good listening", "deep understanding of details".

The studied merchant is not a typical "Car Guy". None of these macho managers who seem to have drunk gasoline instead of milk on their mother's breasts. But who is behind the facade of the unpretentious Scandinavian? And what does Källenius intend to do with Daimler? The answers to these questions are crucial for the future prospects of one of the most important corporations in Germany.

The talented Mr. Källenius

Lars Östman still remembers the student Källenius. "He was always very ambitious," says the now emeritus professor at the Stockholm Business School. At the beginning of the 1990s, the new head of Daimler at Östman studied economics.

Even today, Östman remembers the content of the thesis: "Together with a student Källenius wrote about the economic opportunities after the fall of the wall in Berlin." It was followed by a master's degree at the University of St. Gallen, the traditional finishing school for the future Top management of German companies. In 1993, Källenius joined the then-Daimler-Benz AG in the international junior research group, the "goldfish pond" of the group.

After the traineeship Kallenius proved his talent as a controller in Tuscaloosa in the US state of Alabama, where Mercedes produced his first SUV in the mid-90s. "The fact that the M-Class tracked down so well at the time was a major merit of Källenius," says Wolfgang Inhester, who headed global communications for Mercedes-Benz for ten years. In Tuscaloosa, the then head of development Zetsche became aware of Källenius for the first time.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

In the new US-Mercedes plant Dieter Zetsche should have become aware of Källenius for the first time.

(Photo: Daimler AG)

Elbows needed the 1.95-meter bay from Västervik from the south coast of Sweden not for the subsequent ascent. He knew how to convince others. In Sweden, almost everyone says "you" to each other, so Källenius took a piece of Scandinavia to Daimler: he used to make colleagues and also treated employees who were further down the hierarchy ladder, always at eye level. At Daimler, not a matter of course.

Despite his friendly manner Källenius was "very clear in the speech", was considered fair, but consistent. Employees should not confuse the duzen with harmlessness. Those who did not deliver multiple times, what was required, could wrap up.

Following positions in Mercedes purchasing, the group's racing division in Brixworth, UK and another stay in Tuscaloosa, Källenius became managing director of the subsidiary AMG. The tuning subsidiary is considered a test bench for future board members.

"At AMG, Källenius was able to prove his ability as an entrepreneur and strategist," says Inhester. Under Källenius' leadership, the brand had become much more independent of Mercedes. Here, too, the Swede scored points: With the sub-brand AMG Mercedes left its image as Altherrenauto behind.

At the latest with the change to the divisional director of Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales in 2013 Källenius was considered a potential Zetsche successor. At Mercedes, the digital-affine Swede banished paper from the offices, but continued to work with the staff of his predecessor Joachim Schmidt. Källenius is not one who first installs confidants when he takes over a new job.

Schmidt remembers how Källenius often asked for his opinion and never pretended to know everything better. Without much noise, he organized the sale of numerous Mercedes branches, which no longer fit into the strategic concept.

Actually, "a highly emotional process," said Schmidt, but Källenius had spoken quite "calmly and clearly" with the relevant works councils and done what was necessary.

After 21 years in the service of Daimler Källenius succeeded in 2015, the rise in the board. Zetsche and supervisory board chairman Manfred Bischoff had identified at the time a circle of half a dozen junior staff, they promoted. Especially on Källenius they put great hope.

And even the Swede must have felt that he can make it to the very top at Daimler. This is supported by the fact that he reportedly refused the offer to return to his home country as head of Volvo Cars.

At the beginning of 2015, Källenius became Sales Director and 2017 Board Member for Development and Research. For the Group with its enthusiasm for technology one of the most important areas of the Executive Board. Predecessor Thomas Weber had the engineers switched and allowed to act at will, he was considered as little decision-happy – the resort was in bad shape. Källenius demanded that the Supervisory Board restructure the development department.

Ola Källenius

At the latest with the change to the divisional director of Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales in 2013 Källenius was considered a potential Zetsche successor.

(Photo: Daimler)

Sneakers, jacket, open shirt – Källenius stood in front of the audience of the Consumer Electronic Show (CES), the consumer electronics fair in Las Vegas, in a relaxed manner. "What happens in Las Vegas does not stay in Las Vegas," the Swede began his appearance with a joke. Then he introduced his product: the new infotainment system MBUX. It will be represented in every new model in the future.

The operator simply says "Hey Mercedes", the vehicle answers "Speak now please". No more knobs, almost everything runs on a screen with a diameter of slightly more than 26 centimeters. There, the driver can wipe or push as on an iPhone to change temperature, radio station or seat adjustment. Or to find the way with the novel navigation what3words.

With MBUX, a Mercedes is to become a digital friend, much like an iPhone. As Källenius development chief for Mercedes, he set the bar for MBUX high. "No change, but revolution must come. Even without explanations, you get in, play around like a cell phone, and after five to ten minutes, you can do it ": That was his specification to the developers.

Soon all Mercedes drivers will call "Hey Mercedes". The salutation hardly reminds of the Swedish "Hej", with the Hello Kallenius immortalized himself a bit in the company.

Apart from the appearance at the CES, Källenius, in his time as a development director, adhered to the rule of making as little publicity as possible in order not to steal Zetsche's attention. Because Källenius was never particularly interested in in-company alliances, he was unsuspicious as a potential coup d'état anyway.

The actually likeable quality of having accomplished his rise without Daimler-internal rope crew could cause him problems as a new CEO. Källenius now desperately needs loyal allies to keep his back free. For the upcoming complete conversion of the company from PS-grated carmaker to a mobility group with an acceptable life cycle assessment, Källenius will have to overcome significantly greater resistance than in its previous functions taken together.

The PS problem

In building 26.1 in Sindelfingen, Swabia, Daimler is working on its future. Here the most capable engineers of the group work on the electric cars of tomorrow. Everyone dudes here everyone. Motivation posters hang on the walls. "Already made a robber leader alone?", Stands on one. "Would not you score the goal just because you're a defender?" On another.

Everything here is to the taste of Ola Källenius. The blond has invited to the ground floor of the building for a "meeting in the workshop". It's 8:45 am on Monday, May 13th. Källenius is not yet Daimler boss at this time, but he wants to get rid of something very important even before his enthronement. It's about a strategy that Daimler should fundamentally change: "Ambition 2039".

Mercedes should be green, at least gradually. In 2039, the brand with a star will no longer offer cars that are exclusively powered by an internal combustion engine. "Brave," Källenius calls this strategy. 20 years, that may sound long: "It is not," he clarifies.

graphic

After all, years of preparation are needed in the auto industry until a new model comes onto the market. Mercedes decarbonises its fleet eleven years earlier than the Paris climate agreement envisages. Not bad. But ambitious enough?

Volkswagen wants to produce the last cars on a combustor platform as early as 2026. Daimler lasts at least one vehicle cycle longer. The reason is simple: Mercedes has a PS problem.

The highest margins are achieved by the company with its thickest bodies. The sedan C 63 of the once led by Källenius sports car sub-brand Mercedes-AMG, for example, such a 510 hp strong man's dream. On average, 227 grams of CO2 are blown into the air per kilometer. As a result, the AMG model emits more than twice as much CO2 as Mercedes is allowed to achieve in its total fleet per vehicle by 2021.

Between ambition and reality gapes at Daimler a huge, dirty gap. The stellar squadron's CO2 value actually increased slightly last year – from 127 to 134 grams per kilometer. It will be difficult for the Swabians to reach the EU limit of 105 grams by 2021.

If Mercedes fails, threatening sensitive fines. Bypassing them will also be expensive. The investment firm Evercore ISI puts the necessary effort to reduce Daimler's average emissions below 105 grams, to 1.65 billion euros. Since it is still cheaper than the penalties that threaten otherwise.

Daimler is in a dilemma: In order to finance the ecological change, the Group needs the high profits from the sale of its thick bodies. At the same time, Brussels is pushing the vehicle manufacturer to develop cleaner products. This is only possible with electric motors. The way out is to pave the way for a clever drive mix. Unlike VW, Daimler does not want to rebuild its customers to current disciples, but slowly get used to the new drives.

The Swabians drive in multiple lanes. On the one hand, the Group has just brought with the EQC the first purely electrically powered Mercedes SUV on the road, in which the series production, however, starts only slowly. By 2022, ten pure battery models with star logo will be available. The small car brand Smart will in the future only be driven electrically.

In addition to pure burners and exclusively battery-powered vehicles, the Swabians rely on plug-in hybrids, a cross between burners and Stromer. By 2020, Mercedes wants to have 20 such models in the program.

Mercedes EQC

An electric car with long delivery times and low production.

(Photo: Daimler AG)

"Car means freedom," says a Daimler manager. And that promises in future especially the plug-in hybrid. With electric ranges of 80 to 100 kilometers in the future, the everyday driving in the cities can cope "green" and avoid driving bans, at the same time thanks to the gasoline or diesel engine at any time a spontaneous trip to the mountains or to the North Sea is possible, without range concerns.

The Stuttgart get help from the federal government. Since January 1, new rules have been introduced for electric cars and plug-in hybrids, and the taxation of company cars with electric drive concepts has been halved.

Who uses his company car privately, had previously taxed one percent of the list price per month as a pecuniary advantage, since this year is the halved rate of 0.5 percent. "This is highly attractive, we notice a huge demand for plug-in hybrids," says Daimler Group circles.

Whatever will ultimately be the measure of all things: batteries, the fuel cell, synthetic fuels or a mix of all three, Källenius promises: "We will be there." He also wants to take the suppliers into his eco-revolt. The carbon footprint of primary products is to become a criterion for awarding the contract, along with factors such as price, when Daimler purchases. This will lead to conflicts with suppliers.

Popular with suppliers

In those Källenius has developed a good reputation as development chief. "You talk at eye level and feel honest recognition," it says at a relevant supplier. Often Källenius is called by suppliers as a positive alternative to Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess with his sometimes rude manners. Although not an engineer, the new Daimler boss is credited by suppliers with "high technical competence".

But there is also criticism of Källenius' work as head of development. It would have been his job to prepare the group better for electromobility, says an employee from the product strategy. In the group one charged this failure gladly Källenius' predecessor Thomas Weber. But even Källenius could have done more with the amount of power he enjoyed. To put it bluntly: While the development chief in Las Vegas called "Hey, Mercedes", Daimler mulled the drive revolution.

Perhaps also because the Swede was too cautious to energetically demand a quicker course change with Dieter Zetsche.

"We are still far away from the goal," admits Källenius. Especially since not only the cars of the brand Mercedes have to reinvent. With its truck division, Daimler is also the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in the world. The semi-trailers and buses of the Group are fueled by more than 90 percent diesel fuel today.

Electricity trucks, on the other hand, are barely available for sale as they are about twice as expensive as diesel trucks. That's why Daimler is also promoting alternative fuels, such as liquefied natural gas, especially on long-haul routes.

By no means does Daimler have a suitable solution for all of its environmental problems. But after all, Källenius has already made it clear that he is serious about the change. More serious than its predecessor.

Axel Friedrich is one of those who helped promote the change of mentality at Daimler. The former head of department at the Federal Environment Agency is co-founder of the "International Council for Clean Transport", which revealed the diesel fraud in 2015. Friedrich works among other things for the hated at Daimler German environmental aid (DUH) as an expert.

He is considered an excellent measurement technician and exhaust expert, which is why his assessment is taken seriously not only by environmental associations, but also in the automotive industry. Dieter Zetsche has already asked the tormenting spirit Friedrich to talk. And Källenius invited him about a year ago for discussion in the group.

With Daimler, said Friedrich, these discussions were comparatively constructive. For Friedrich and other environmental experts, this is also due to the culture of conversation cultivated by the new boss. "Källenius is not an engineer, but technically very deep in it. He listens even to proven critics like me and only then forms an opinion. "

On the other hand, DUH boss Jürgen Resch outweighs the skepticism about the new Daimler boss. Although Källenius earned as CEO "an honest chance". However, Resch complains that Källenius in 2000 as a material buyer for car engines and responsible for exhaust management "was active in exactly the area that led to the biggest crisis in the German car industry and especially by Daimler".

As a board member, scolds Resch, Källenius then took all the decisions. Even those who sought to disguise the alleged exhaust fraud. In addition belonged to hinder the emission measurements of the DUH or deceive authorities, public and politics.

Exhaust gas test at Daimler

In 2018, the CO2 value of the Mercedes fleet even rose slightly.

(Photo: Daimler AG)

A company spokesman holds a connection of Källenius' career stations "with current discussions on functionalities in the engine control of diesel cars for completely absurd". As a buyer Källenius "technical specifications of components were not responsible".

Even Friedrich is convinced that Källenius had nothing to do with "the shit" because of that, because something complex like the engine electronics of a car would penetrate only engine engineers in depth – but not a businessman like Källenius. The company really wants to turn the company around as far as possible. Friedrich is convinced of that.

Members of the Daimler Advisory Board on Integrity and Corporate Responsibility, who regularly discusses ethical and environmental issues with members of the Executive Board, also see this. Unlike Zetsche, says one who has experienced both managers there on a regular basis, Källenius does not simply brush away unpleasant perspectives.

For example, Zetsche would have quickly strangled a discussion on whether to tax larger cars for environmental reasons. After all, that would be diametrically opposed to the interests of Daimler and the wishes of the SUV fans among the customers. Källenius, on the other hand, had openly asked himself whether luxury in the future would be defined as something other than size.

The reflection on luxury then even found its way into an internal paper. "Under Zetsche something would have been unthinkable," they say.

His willingness to talk will make it comparatively easy for Källenius to establish contacts in politics. There, the new Daimler boss is currently still a blank slate. For example, during the last parliamentary term, German carmaker representatives visited the Chancellery more than 65 times to voice their concerns or to be heard as experts.

Zetsche himself was eleven times in Angela Merkel's powerhouse. Källenius, however, is not listed once in the Federal Government's overview. Also in the Ministry of Transport states that the new Daimler boss was not particularly active there.

In the Association of the automotive industry, however, the Swede is known. "I know and appreciate Ola Källenius for many years," said Bernhard Mattes, President of the VDA. Källenius stands for the modern manager: he thinks strategically, is open to other opinions – and decisive. "

Källenius will inevitably soon get the political attention of the Chancellor. He will give a speech at the IAA Motor Show in September in Frankfurt. And if Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), as at the previous IAA again visit the Daimler booth, she will experience there at the latest, the new Daimler boss.

The private person Källenius, however, is a great unknown even at Daimler. He likes to eat well, so much you know, but rather in the home-style tavern than in the star restaurant. Recently, he has made a hunting license – as a hunter, he should make a good figure, tells a stalker.

But hardly anyone in the group knows what the rational analyst and father of three boys really is burning for. Or what he did before his time at Daimler in Sweden. "Maybe he was abandoned as a foundling in the basket in Untertürkheim," jokes an insider.

One thing is certain: Källenius is not always friendly. He can be very demanding, report employees, and always when it comes to achieving goals. He now has to prove this hardness. Because Daimler has to learn to save.

A corporation must learn to save

In meetings sometimes the mineral water is missing, trash cans are sometimes emptied less often, cosmetic repairs are missing. That the times are getting rougher at Daimler, many of the almost 300 000 employees of the Group so far rather notice trifles.

Since the conglomerate's profit slumped by almost 30 percent last year to 7.6 billion euros, the board is pushing for stricter cost control. So far, the measures for the troop were perhaps annoying, but digestible.

graphic

But it should not stay that way. "Daimler has a chronic efficiency problem," complains Janne Werning of Union Investment, the investment company of the Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken. "The costs are exploding – that does not smell like departure", complains Ingo Speich from Deka Investment and warns: "Mr. Källenius, the other automakers depend on you."

"Everything is under scrutiny," promises Dieter Zetsche in his last speech to the Daimler shareholders last Wednesday. Not every model is likely to have a successor, engine models could be deleted in the medium term. The costs in the central administrative areas should decrease by 20 percent. Expenses for travel and consultants are halved. For example, Daimler plans to divide its costs with arch-rival BMW.

To redeem Zetsches farewell pledge, Källenius will have to dare to the very thick boards. Unlike BMW, for example, the Swabians manufacture their own transmissions. As a result, Mercedes has around 24,000 more employees than its rival with comparable sales. Mercedes generates € 60,000 less revenue per employee than its competitors from Bavaria.

"Our vertical integration must sink," concludes a Daimler manager. Gear and castings are a "dying industry", e-cars have no gearbox. Such components should be preferred in the long run.

But that would be a taboo break. Violent protest by the workers would be guaranteed. "I think it is essential that we do not rely only on suppliers," says Michael Häberle, influential works council chief of Daimler's parent plant in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. Daimler needs a certain degree of vertical integration in different technologies. "And it pays off in an overall cost analysis, too", the head of the works council clarifies.

When a year ago at the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, USA, several shifts had to be canceled because a factory of supplier Meridian burned down and he could not deliver crossbeams for weeks, his colleagues at the Mettingen plant in Untertürkheim would have saved Daimler from worse: "No other supplier was able to help us help out in this situation. That's why we poured the necessary injection-molded bars ourselves in our foundry and transported them to the USA, "says Häberle, proudly adding," That's how we saved a lot of money for the company. "

How powerful Häberle and his works council colleagues are shows an agreement that the employee representatives concluded with the management. The more than 130,000 employees who employ Daimler under collective bargaining conditions will receive a job guarantee until the end of 2029. This is unprecedented in German industrial history and clearly limits Källenius' room for maneuver. In return, the employees approved the planned conversion of the group into a holding company.

Is Zetsche returning?

The vote of the Daimler shareholders at the Annual General Meeting was unequivocal on Wednesday. 99.75 percent of the capital present voted in favor of the "Project Future". This is the biggest change in Daimler's history.

The company, which has been so much in its more than 130 years of history and wanted to be even more, will transform itself into a holding company based on Siemens' example. Under the umbrella of Daimler AG, three legally independent subsidiaries are created for the business with cars and vans, trucks and buses as well as mobility and financial services. The new structure will come into force at the beginning of November. But what exactly does Källenius intend to do with her? Maybe one day, does Daimler split up?

leadership change

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche (right) resigns, the Swede Ola Källenius takes over the group leadership.


(Photo: Reuters)

One thing is clear: Daimler should be faster and more transparent, easier to enter into partnerships and to raise capital. By independence and a deeper insight into the numbers of the individual units, the Stuttgart hopes for an efficiency dynamics. If it becomes clearer in which areas it is good and where it is going badly, the pressure for change unfolds, according to the logic. And that in turn increases the value of the entire company.

Because the small market capitalization is perhaps the big weakness of Daimler. When Zetsche became CEO in 2006 and Daimler was in dire straits, the stock market value of the conglomerate was 44 billion euros. At the end of the first quarter of 2019, it was 55 billion euros.

Given this long time, the added value is a sobering value. It reflects the mistrust of the shareholders regarding the future prospects of the PS Group. For comparison: Fahrdienst Uber is currently worth despite high losses almost 70 billion dollars.

Källenius is now to create what Zetsche was denied: to raise the true value of the company. Many investors want a quick IPO of the truck division. Currently not an issue, weighs the company from. In particular, the employee representatives do not believe in any smacking bustle. "We expect Källenius to keep the company together," says a powerful works council.

Unclear is the role of the largest single shareholder. Geely founder Li Shufu holds 9.7 percent of the shares and was recently pleased about initial projects with Daimler, such as the transfer of the chronic deficit small car brand Smart into a Sino-German joint venture.

Wenn Källenius geschickt agiert, kann er Li als Seismograf für die Entwicklungen im fernöstlichen Automarkt nutzen, der größten Absatzregion der Welt. Allerdings könnte Daimler auch in unliebsame, große Kooperationen getrieben werden.

Källenius muss die vielen divergierenden Interessen austarieren. Dafür bekommt der Manager auf dem Papier eine beispiellose Machtfülle zugestanden: Er wird Chef der Dachgesellschaft Daimler, leitet die Pkw-Sparte Mercedes, die für mehr als die Hälfte des Konzernumsatzes steht, und fungiert als oberster Aufseher der Truckdivision. Aber wie frei kann er wirklich agieren?

Mercedes-AMG

Mit der Marke AMG ließ Mercedes sein Image als das Auto von alten Leuten hinter sich.

(Foto: Daimler AG)

Schon die neue Struktur setze ihm „Leitplanken“, sagt ein Daimler-Aufsichtsrat: „Nach so einem massiven Umbau kann er nicht gleich zu Beginn mit einer neuen Revolution daherkommen.“ Gleichzeitig muss er sich schnell von seinem Mentor Zetsche lösen.

Viel Zeit, um sich ganz oben zurechtzufinden, wird der zweite Ausländer an der Daimler-Spitze von Daimler nach dem Österreicher Walter Hitzinger – der war von 1961 bis 1966 Vorstandsvorsitzender – nicht haben. Manchem im Konzern graut schon davor, dass „der Alte“ als Schatten-CEO zurückkehren könnte. Zetsche ist zwar seit Mittwoch in Rente. Nach einer zweijährigen Abkühlphase will er aber als Aufsichtsratschef zu Daimler zurückkehren.

„Es darf keinen Automatismus geben“, sagt Roland Bosch vom britischen Aktionärsberater Hermes. Vor einem Wechsel in den Aufsichtsrat müsse sehr genau geprüft werden, ob sich Zetsche als Aufseher des Unternehmens wirklich eignet. Corporate-Governance-Experte Christian Strenger sieht das ähnlich: Eine „Vorfestlegung“ auf Zetsche sei aktuell „schlicht zu früh“. Es bedürfe im Frühjahr 2021 einer „Würdigung der Gesamtumstände“.

Bis dahin wird sich auch Källenius neu erfinden müssen. In seinem bisherigen Werdegang hat er sich genau so verhalten, wie es sich für einen High Potential ziemt: durch Leistung überzeugen, niemanden vor den Kopf stoßen und vor allem seinem Chef und wichtigsten Förderer nicht allzu oft widersprechen.

Nun ist Källenius ganz oben. Nun muss er selbst die Richtung vorgeben. Källenius muss inmitten des größten Wandels in der Automobilgeschichte einen Traditionskonzern umkrempeln – und das schnell, unter unklaren Rahmenbedingungen und mit knappem Kapital.

Die intellektuellen Fähigkeiten dazu hat Källenius zweifellos. Auch die Fähigkeit, Menschen für sich einzunehmen. Doch er ist auch eine Konzernpflanze. Da er nie bei einer anderen Firma als bei Daimler gearbeitet hat, könnte ihm die nötige Disruptionskraft fehlen, sagt einer, der ihn lange kennt und schätzt.

Källenius habe bislang nicht klargemacht, wofür er stehe. „Nett“ könne sich eben auch schnell in „identitätslos“ verwandeln. Deutlicher wird ein Investor: „Daimler fehlt ein CEO, der von einer Idee, einem Ziel getrieben ist. Tesla ist hier ein Wake-up-Call.“

Auf der Hauptversammlung in der Berliner Messe teilen die Aktionäre weiter nach Kräften aus. Källenius wird den ganzen Tag nicht reden, obwohl die Investoren genau das einfordern. Schließlich ergreift Marc Tüngler das Wort. Källenius werde ein „Haus in stürmischen Zeiten“ übergeben, sagt der Hauptgeschäftsführer der Deutschen Schutzvereinigung für Wertpapierbesitz (DSW).

Man solle gehen, wenn es am schönsten ist, „Herrn Zetsche ist das nicht gelungen“. Als das rote Lämpchen auf dem Rednerpult zu blinken beginnt und Aufsichtsratschef Bischoff gestrenge Blicke in Richtung Tüngler schickt, ruft der: „Meine Redezeit ist jetzt vorbei. Ihre Zeit, Herr Källenius, beginnt gerade erst. Machen Sie was draus.“

Mitarbeit: Martin Buchenau, Daniel Delhaes, Thomas Jahn, Martin Murphy, Helmut Steuer

More on the subject: Mercedes und BMW planen, Mobilitätsdienste und autonomes Fahren gemeinsam zu entwickeln. Der Pakt der Autokonzerne könnte bahnbrechend sein. Warum Daimler und BMW jetzt auf Kooperation setzen.

.(tagsToTranslate)Agenda(t)Daimler(t)Ola Källenius(t)Dieter Zetsche(t)Manfred Bischoff(t)Mercedes(t)Manager-Führungskraft(t)Deutsche Umwelthilfe(t)VW(t)BMW(t)Mercedes-AMG(t)what3words(t)Evercore(t)Tesla(t)Chrysler(t)Volvo Car Corporation(t)Geely(t)DSW(t)Siemens(t)Messe Berlin(t)Deka Investment(t)Umweltbundesamt(t)Bosch(t)Union Investment(t)Universität St. Gallen(t)VDA(t)CDU(t)Uber(t)Ola Källenius(t)Dieter Zetsche(t)Axel Friedrich(t)Manfred Bischoff(t)Joachim Schmidt(t)Jürgen Resch(t)Thomas Weber(t)Angela Merkel(t)Marc Tüngler(t)Automobilindustrie

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