Eckhard Cordes Was Passed Over For DaimlerChrysler Promotion

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DETROIT ( -- Eckhard Cordes, 54, will leave Germany's DaimlerChrysler as the head of its global Mercedes-Benz Car Group at the end of the month "at his own request," the automaker said today.

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Mr. Cordes, the board member overseeing the unit, was said to have been disappointed he wasn't selected for the top job to follow Juergen Schrempp, DaimlerChrysler's CEO. The board announced Mr. Schrempp's retirement in late July and his successor -- Dieter Zetsche, 52, now president-CEO of the company's Chrysler Group.

Mr. Cordes was said to have tendered his resignation after the announcement, but the board has reportedly tried to persuade him to stay in the post he's held since last fall.

Sept. 1 departure
DaimlerChrysler today announced Mr. Zetsche will also assume Mr. Cordes's duties and title. Further, the automaker said all the personnel changes will take effect Sept. 1 and not Jan. 1, as initially planned.

Mr. Cordes took the reins at a difficult time for the Mercedes Car Group, which includes the Smart and Maybach brands. Smart has never been profitable since its founding in the late 1990s and Mercedes-Benz has been trying to recover from sliding quality in recent years and heated competition.

Globally, the Mercedes Group's profitability has slipped since 2004's second quarter, with a first-quarter operating loss of about $1 billion. The unit showed improved results in the last quarter with a small operating profit of $15 million, thanks in part, the company said, to Mr. Cordes' "CORE" efficiency effort. But a former insider dubbed CORE a cost-cutting effort that has crimped the brand's 2005 U.S. ad budget.

Reveral of fortunes
In a reversal of fortunes, Chrysler Group is the now a big profit generator in the Daimler family, not Mercedes-Benz. Mr. Zetsche led the charge via a new-product revolution and improved plant efficiencies boosted by his second lieutenant, chief operating officer Tom LaSorda, a manufacturing veteran. Mr. LaSorda, 51, will succeed Mr. Zetsche Sept. 1.

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