To mark the end of Dieter Zetsche’s time at Daimler, BMW drops spoof video on social media. But it really is the end of an era.
In the video, a lookalike Zetsche is seen to hand his corporate badge, pose for selfies and get into his chauffeured S-Class one last time.
On the drive home he looks up wistfully at the Mercedes-Benz star silhouetted against the Stuttgart sky. Which, when you think about it, he probably will do in real life from time to time.
The twist comes at the end when he whooshes out of his garage in a BMW i8, choosing it over a vintage Merc for an evening spin.
All very nice and affectionate but in reality Zetsche is leaving behind not just the leadership of an auto company but an era.
Zetsche began his career at Daimler in 1976 when the idea of an electric or autonomous vehicle was science fiction.
With a doctorate in electrical engineering, he held management positions in the commercial vehicles business unit in Brazil, Argentina and the United States before being appointed in 1995 to the board of management of Mercedes-Benz AG as head of sales and then to the board of management of the commercial vehicles business unit.
In 2000, he assumed responsibility for Chrysler as CEO and President until 2005, when he became Head of the Mercedes-Benz Car Group. In 2006, he was appointed as CEO of Daimler AG.
He should be credited with restoring Mercedes-Benz cars reputation for quality and engineering (if not styling) after a difficult period at the turn of the century and the ill-judged acquisition of Chrysler.
In his time too, Mercedes-Benz has established dominance in Formula 1 racing and the AMG division has proven more than an equal to BMW M.
“With Dieter Zetsche an exceptional executive is leaving. He has successfully led Daimler back to the top, also through difficult terrain. Together with the employees, he has pushed forward the company’s fundamental transformation. Under his leadership, Daimler has laid the foundation for a good future. He deserves our unqualified gratitude,” said Manfred Bischoff, chairman of the supervisory board of Daimler.
Zetsche hands over to a different kind of leader. Ola Källenius is a Swedish technocrat with a strong background in marketing and R&D. He has long advocated the company’s push towards electric power trains.
Successful or not, it’s hard to see him in future high-fiving Lewis Hamilton and the mechanics in the pit lane at Monaco as Zetsche undoubtedly will this weekend.