Mercedes boss likely to depart

Mercedes group marketing chief Joachim Schmidt is thought to be leaving the German car company in mysterious circumstances.

Sources suggest that his departure could be a part of a company shake-up to address a recent decline in sales and profitability at the DaimlerChrysler-owned marque.

The head of DaimlerChrysler’s European commercial vehicle division, Klaus Maier, is tipped to replace Schmidt as head of sales and marketing at Mercedes if, as is expected, he leaves later this week.

The news follows a turbulent few months at DaimlerChrysler. The company was rocked by a recent sales scandal, while fourth-quarter operating profit at Mercedes fell by 97 per cent, to just ââ¬20m (£14m) as its Smart division continued to struggle. Last year, DaimlerChrysler announced the retirement of Eckhard Panka, head of its sales organisation. Panka is being investigated by the state prosecutor’s office in Stuttgart in connection with the construction of a house on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

Schmidt would be the most senior Mercedes official to leave the company since Eckhard Cordes took over as chief executive in October. A Mercedes spokesman refuses to comment, calling news of Schmidt’s departure “pure speculation”.

The company also recently fired two executives – head of sales Jürgen Fahr and head of the Hamburg sales office Walter Missing – after discovering what a spokeswoman calls “irregularities” within the organisation.

Schmidt has been head of sales and marketing at Mercedes since 1999. He joined Daimler Benz AG in 1979, leaving briefly in 1986 before returning to the company in 1988.

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