BERLIN – DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX) said Thursday Eckhard Cordes (search), he head of its Mercedes Car Group unit, who was passed over for promotion to the chief executive's job, would leave the automaker at the end of this month.
Also on Thursday, a German regulator said it was examining whether the automaker followed rules obliging it to release market-sensitive information quickly when it announced the resignation of CEO Juergen Schrempp (search) in July.
Cordes "will leave the company at his own request on Aug. 31, 2005, after 29 years of service," a brief company statement said.
The German-U.S. automaker said Chrysler chief Dieter Zetsche (search), who is set to take over as chief executive when Schrempp departs at the end of this year, would take charge of Mercedes starting Sept. 1.
The company did not elaborate on the reasons for the departure of Cordes, who was once considered a leading contender to succeed Schrempp.
However, last month's announcement that Schrempp would leave and be replaced by Zetsche triggered a spate of German media reports that Cordes had offered to resign.
Cordes, 54, helped Schrempp plan Daimler-Benz's 1998 merger with Chrysler Corp. He then revived DaimlerChrysler's struggling commercial vehicles division before taking over Mercedes last year.
Mercedes, once DaimlerChrysler's star performer, has gone through troubled times lately. It has been plagued by quality issues, including a 1.3 million vehicle recall in April, as well as problems at its Smart compact car division.
DaimlerChrysler did not say for how long Zetsche, who has earned plaudits for turning around Chrysler, would lead Mercedes.
Cordes' departure will result in Chrysler No. 2 Thomas LaSorda (search) stepping up to head the U.S. unit beginning Sept. 1, rather than at the end of the year as initially planned. Chrysler executive Eric Ridenour will take LaSorda's place the same day.
DaimlerChrysler's July 28 statement that Schrempp would step down was preceded by rumors that sparked a rally in the company's stock earlier in the day.
Germany's BaFin financial services watchdog was checking into whether DaimlerChrysler's midmorning announcement was timely, said the regulator's spokeswoman, Anja Neukoetter. The regulator can impose a fine of up to 1 million euros ($1.23 million) on listed companies for breaking rules obliging them to release market-sensitive information quickly.
Neukoetter said the probe was separate from a formal investigation into possible insider trading. BaFin said Wednesday it opened that investigation after finding "grounds" to suspect illegal trades in DaimlerChrysler shares just before the Schrempp announcement.
DaimlerChrysler officials have declined to comment on the insider-trading investigation or the timing of its announcement that Schrempp, who was long criticized by shareholders, would go.
U.S. shares of DaimlerChrysler fell 54 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $49.63 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).