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Auto blogSun, 24 Feb 2013 10:00:00 EST
There appear to be two takes on Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche having his contract extended for three more years, to 2016. A report in The Detroit News quotes the chairman of Daimler's supervisory board, Manfred Bischoff, talking up the stability at the top, "With today's extensions of the contracts of Dieter Zetsche and Thomas Weber, we are maintaining the important continuity at the top executive level." Bischoff also stated that that Zetsche has a plan to "further enhance Daimler's overall performance."
Over at Reuters, though, the three-year extension was seen as a lack of complete confidence in Zetsche's plans, since his contract was supposedly meant to be extended by five years. A spokesman said the board decided to extend executive contracts by only three years if the person was 60 or would turn 60 during the contract, but that was news to observers. Zetsche wants to make Mercedes-Benz the top selling luxury manufacturer globally by 2020, but has fallen to third place behind Audi and BMW. It hasn't held the top spot 2005, and investors judged it valued at half that of BMW at the end of 2012 once Daimler's truck business was subtracted.
Analysts cites the fact that Daimler stock hasn't bested its rivals but twice in twelve years, and that the company revised its profit target downward last year by nearly one billion euros, warning of stagnant earnings this year and will miss its original margin target for 2013.
Mercedes-Benz will expand its factory in Tuscaloosa, AL, to build the ML Coupe, a new crossover that will join its lineup in 2015. Mercedes will also ramp up production to build facelifted versions of the M-Class and GL-Class SUVs, lifting the factory's total production capacity to about 300,000 units annually in 2015. It made 185,000 vehicles in 2013. In addition to SUVs, the Tuscaloosa site also makes the C-Class sedan.
The plans come as part of Mercedes' strategy to capitalize on Americans' increasing demands for SUVs. The company said the SUV market was up 12 percent in first half of 2014, and expects it to grow at twice the rate of the regular market in 2015 and 2016.
"We are seeing climbing demand for SUVs." - Dieter Zetsche
No one in their right mind has ever accused German tuners Mansory of being subtle. So, when our Geneva team wandered across the Mansory Speranza - A Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen that has been denuded of its roof and spackled inside with quilted leather and red carbon fiber - they didn't ask a lot of existential questions. Why does the Speranza exist? Because Germans are weird sometimes, that's why.
Forget for a moment that you'll have to pay Mansory hundreds of thousands of euros (we're guessing, no pricing information has been revealed) for the privilege of converting your G-Class into something that looks like a Suzuki Samurai, and prepare to be impressed by the details. The tuning house has increased the output of the Mercedes V8 to a healthy 700 horsepower and 668 pound-feet of torque. The wheels are 24-inches, and wear almost unbelievable 305-section ultra-high performance Vresdestein tires. Carbon fiber can be found nearly everywhere one looks, including making up the housing for the spare tire. Oh, and there are leather pillows for the backseats... no word on whether they're standard or optional, but we're looking in to it.