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Dieter Zetsche in front of a blue wallpaper.
Dieter Zetsche

The cultural revolution in the automotive industry

In dialogue with the Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG

Clock 7 minutes

2018-10-25

The tasks are changing and competition is becoming increasingly intense at the same time: Dieter Zetsche sees a cultural revolution taking place within these conflicting areas — and his company is right in the middle. Where will the path lead?

Open frontiers

Improved by experience — for Dieter Zetsche, it is not enough. His company can look back on a 130-year history. He deems the time very valuable but adds, that “sometimes experience might create limits.” Therefore, he sees the company as being on the path to a cultural revolution saying, “we open up all our frontiers and all our limitations and give a lot of room for our creativity and for innovation.” In the future, his company has to provide new solutions, including some that only a few years ago resided more in the realms of science fiction. An example is autonomous driving. Zetsche additionally wants to develop more flexible units in the company to be more focused when serving the respective customer group. In the competition with the new digital rivals for the best models of future mobility, he feels the realignment is essential for survival.

25 per cent

The sales share of electric cars targeted by Daimler in 2025.

Dieter Zetsche in front of a television camera.

The automotive industry will change in the coming decade just as much as it did in the previous century, predict experts in view of the challenges like digitalization, climate protection and autonomous driving. Zetsche even feels a second invention of the car is moving closer to the industry. One is right in the middle of radical change which will also bring new competition with it. The Googles and Apples of this world have been identified by him as being competitors alongside the traditional rivals — a competition which he welcomes. “It is challenging us and that’s a good thing.”

In this competition, one has to remember existing strengths and fall back on them. His pipe dream, “The combination of our experience and out-of-the-box-thinking.” Both in competition and in co-operations with the new businesses in the automobile world.

Berlin is not Nairobi

In Zetsche’s eyes this has a major influence on the changes taking place at Mercedes-Benz. The brand will in future be made up of several components belonging to both the time-tested and the new world. Electric, emission-free and self-driving cars are no longer going to be a niche in ten years. At the same time, there are still going to be cars with internal combustion engines without self-driving functions. Why? “Because people’s expectations on this globe are very different and what we need in Berlin is not what we need in Nairobi or somewhere in the countryside in the US.”

“Electric cars can excite. Especially because of their acceleration potential.”

Dieter Zetsche

Zetsche wants to make the electric sector so exciting that it is attractive for customers, also without any concessions on the part of the legislators. He points to the virtues of electrical versions, the “tremendous torque” and the “very exiting driving experience” that results. Zetsche is certain, that “electric cars from Mercedes-Benz will be very, very cool in the future.”

Naturally he himself will have one of these electric vehicles in his garage, but not only, “At the same time, I will enjoy driving vehicles from the past as well.” Autonomous driving is also not something he will take advantage of the whole time in the future because he simply enjoys getting behind the steering wheel himself far too much.

Interview with Dieter Zetsche,
Chairman of the Board of Management, Daimler AG

Portrait photo of Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG.

Dieter Zetsche, 65

Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG

In five years, I will be able to sit in a car without a driver.

After graduating as an engineer and then completing a doctorate in engineering, he has worked for the Daimler group since 1976. 30 years after joining the company and posts in Argentina, Brazil and in USA, he took over his present position from his predecessor Jürgen Schrempp in 2006.

Summary

Dieter Zetsche sees the automotive industry amidst a cultural revolution. The new tasks therefore require not only the second invention of the motor vehicle in the digital environment — but also a more flexible structure within the company.

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