DETROIT –likely will name a new president and CEO for its Mercedes-Benz USA subsidiary by year’s end, says Steve Cannon, the unit’s vice president.
The parent company realizes it can’t wait too long to replace the terminated Ernst Lieb, Cannon tells journalists here.
fired Lieb in October from MBUSA’s top position for allegedly using company funds to cover personal expenses such as improvements to his home.
Chief Financial Officer Herbert Werner is interim CEO while the parent company in Stuttgart, Germany, goes through the process of picking Lieb’s successor, Cannon says.
“We’ll know when a white plume of smoke appears in Stuttgart,” he quips, referring to how the Vatican signals the election of a new pope. “But right now, there is radio silence.”
Mercedes and its U.S. dealers are enjoying high sales and profits this year, Cannon says.
He predicts the auto maker could end the year “a couple of thousand” units away from its archrival and luxury-segment leader. “But our marching orders are not to beat BMW. So we are not going to do silly incentives to gain a crown that really doesn’t matter.”
Year-to-date,has sold 272,873 units in the U.S. compared with Mercedes’ 239,138, according to WardsAuto data. However, in November deliveries Mercedes outpaced BMW 28,277 to 26,271.
“It has been a difficult but very big year for the brand,” Cannon says. “We’ve moved the needle on people’s perception of the brand. The winds have shifted, not just because of new product but because of a lot of work by our dealers.”
He touts the new C-Class sedan and coupe as hot products that are “flying off the shelves.”
Next year, a ’13 CLC sedan will make its world debut at the New York auto show.
With that car, Mercedes enters the higher-volume, entry-level luxury market below the current C-Class.
Unlike some competitors, Mercedes won’t advertise during the 2012 Super Bowl, but plans to do so during the NFL championship game the following year.
“The 2013 Super Bowl will be played in New Orleans, at our own Mercedes Superdome,” Cannon says, referring to the auto maker’s recent acquisition of naming rights to the stadium. “We’ll advertise then.”