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Daimler's Dr. Z readies for retirement, names Ola Källenius successor

Dieter Zetsche will move to the chairman position on Daimler's board when Ola Källenius takes over as head of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz.

F1 Grand Prix of Germany
Dieter Zetsche, known to many as Dr. Z, is readying for retirement in 2019 as he prepares to take the chairman's seat on Daimler's supervisory board in 2021.
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Dieter Zetsche -- aka Dr. Z -- has been the face (and mustache, the glorious mustache) of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz for around 12 years now, but at 65 years old, he's looking toward retirement. His successor, announced Wednesday, will be the first head of Daimler to not come from Germany.

Dr. Z's replacement is a Swede named Ola Källenius, who has been with the company since 1993. He currently serves as the head of the research and development team for Daimler and Mercedes, but he isn't an engineer. Källenius' background is in finance, which would be a notable shift for Daimler, which has traditionally had engineers rather than bean counters, at its helm.

Since starting with the company in the early '90s, Källenius had done stints at McLaren Automotive (when Daimler was a stakeholder in the company) and at Mercedes' performance sub-brand AMG.

Part of Zetsche's retirement includes a two-year cooling-off period before taking over the chairman position on Daimler's supervisory board currently held by Manfred Bischoff, who plans to step down in 2021.

Ola Källenius will replace Zetsche as CEO of Daimler.

Marijan Murat/AFP/Getty Images

"As a long-standing member of the Board of Management and Chairman of the Board of Management, Dieter Zetsche has played a key role in shaping Daimler AG and has ensured its strategically outstanding positioning for the mobility of the future," Bischoff said in a statement. 

"As Chairman of the Board of Management, he has proven that he can lead Daimler AG also in difficult circumstances and can inspire employees to pursue ambitious goals. 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 Källenius," Bischoff added, "we are appointing a recognized, internationally experienced and successful Daimler executive as Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. At the same time, we are relying on the proven dual responsibility of the Chairman of the Board of Management as the head of the largest division, Mercedes-Benz Cars."

This change in leadership could be a sign of exciting things to come for the world's oldest auto manufacturer, since it was Källenius who pushed for the series of 10 electric vehicles that we've just started seeing with the Mercedes-Benz EQC. We're looking forward to what the next five years of his leadership will bring.