Daimler’s New CEO Is a Quiet, Race Car-Loving Swede

(Bloomberg) -- When Daimler Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche unveiled the carmaker’s flagship EQC electric vehicle in an idyllic countryside setting outside Stockholm earlier this month, he drew attention to the “guy from Sweden on our board.”

The spotlight on Ola Kallenius is now growing bigger with the 49-year-old anointed to step into Zetsche’s shoes starting next year. For Daimler, it’s a new era after 12 years led by the 65-year-old known for his showman flair. It’s also a move outside the Mercedes-Benz maker’s comfort zone, naming not only a non-German but also a non-engineer who studied finance and management.

Daimler’s New CEO Is a Quiet, Race Car-Loving Swede

Heir apparent since 2016, when he beat out other internal contenders to lead the development brief, the soft-spoken Kallenius has been at the center of Daimler’s 10 billion-euro ($11.8 billion) push for a 10-vehicle electric car lineup that’s preparing the carmaker for the industry’s biggest shift in generations. Joining as a trainee, he has a taste for race cars with leading roles at McLaren Automotive, when Daimler held a stake, and Mercedes’s AMG performance division.

What’s on His Plate

  • A profit warning blamed on trade tensions and delays adapting to new emissions testing standards in Europe
  • Striking a balance between keeping Mercedes in the luxury sales lead, after overtaking BMW in 2016, and record spending on electric and self-driving models
  • Daimler is in midst of biggest corporate overhaul to devolve into three units to gain flexibility
  • The truck unit, the world’s biggest, continues to trail profitability goals
  • Future potential cooperations with Daimler’s new biggest shareholder, China’s Li Shufu
  • Navigate bumps in the road on its cooperation with Renault-Nissan  

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