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Zetsche to run Mercedes, too

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Guest Josh
DaimlerChrysler said Thursday that Eckhard Cordes would step down as head of the Mercedes Car Group at the end of August and Dieter Zetsche, the incoming chief executive of DaimlerChrysler, would take over management of the luxury car division.

Cordes had been widely expected to leave the company after being passed over in July for the CEO job at DaimlerChrysler by Zetsche, his longtime rival. But his departure comes sooner than expected, spurring the company to move swiftly to plug a key management hole.

At Chrysler, the Auburn Hills unit of Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG, the move means that Thomas W. LaSorda, Chrysler's chief operating officer, will replace Zetsche as CEO three months earlier than expected.

The management change will put pressure on LaSorda to gain a quicker command of the nation's No. 3 automaker when it is trying to build on recent gains, while Zetsche's new assignment atop Mercedes will find him in the familiar role of turnaround artist.

Mercedes, the crown jewel of DaimlerChrysler's empire, has had its upper-crust image tarnished by a 1.3 million vehicle recall in April and other quality problems. Mercedes profits have slumped and it has been forced to undertake a costly restructuring at its Smart minicar unit.

Under a turnaround plan, Mercedes aims to save $5.6 billion by 2007 and raise profit margins to 7 percent, up from 3.3 percent last year.


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