Ernst Lieb introducing the then-new Mercedes-Benz ML450 at the 2009 New York Auto Show.
In a striking and unexpected move Daimler AG has announced that Ernst Lieb has been relieved of his duties as CEO of the maker’s Mercedes-Benz USA operations effective immediately.
The move took even well-placed insiders by surprise, triggering a variety of rumors about the well-liked executives sudden departure. Company officials issued only a terse formal statement noting, “Ernst Lieb has been excused from his duties as CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), effective immediately. Daily business operations of MBUSA will be conducted by Herbert Werner (CFO and Vice President Finance, Controlling & IT) until further notice.”
The fact that Werner will handle Lieb’s duties on an apparently temporary basis underscores the apparent suddenness of the shake-up.
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“I don’t understand this. It had to be something personal considering they’re gaining share and improving sales,” said analyst Joe Phillippi, of AutoTrends Consulting.
Since taking the helm at Mercedes-Benz USA, Lieb has overseen steady growth. Mercedes sales are up 10.4% for the year, well ahead of the overall U.S. automotive market’s slow revival. The maker is now the leading luxury brand in the U.S. – pushing past Toyota’s Lexus division which has suffered serious product shortages as a result of Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami.