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MUNICH -- Daimler named Ola Kaellenius, who leads Mercedes' AMG unit and is a former head of the automaker's factory in Alabama, as its new sales and marketing chief. The 44-year-old executive will replace Joachim Schmidt, who will retire next month after 34 years with the company.
The changes take effect on Oct. 1, Daimler said in a statement today.
Schmidt, who turns 65 on Sept. 7, has been Mercedes' sales and marketing chief since 2009. He joined Daimler-Benz in 1979, working initially in passenger car development and then for more than 20 years in various sales and marketing management positions.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said during Schmidt's tenure Mercedes tapped into important new growth regions and made huge progress in quality and customer satisfaction. Schmidt also played a central role in the company's strategy to target new, younger customers, Zetsche said in the statement.
Kaellenius has led AMG, the performance unit of Mercedes that builds the exotic SLS gullwing supercar, since April 1, 2010. Before that, he was plant manager at the Mercedes' U.S. factory in Vance, Alabama. He joined Daimler-Benz in 1993.
"With Ola Kaellenius we have someone with cars in his blood taking over the reins," Zetsche said, describing the Swedish-born executive as a brand expert with a deep knowledge of Mercedes customers.
Catching BMW, Audi
Kaellenius will have his work cut out, especially in China where Mercedes has fallen far behind its two bigger rivals due to a lack of dealerships as well as two competing local sales subsidiaries.
Schmidt retires after 34 years with Daimler.
Mercedes saw its sales gap with BMW grow to 200,000 vehicles worldwide in 2012.
Audi, meanwhile, overtook Mercedes in sales in 2011 and sold about 100,000 more cars globally than its Stuttgart-based competitor last year.
Daimler said Kaellenius' successor at AMG will be announced soon