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Dr. Dieter Zetsche Speaker Profile

Former Head of Mercedes-Benz
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Dr. Dieter Zetsche Biography

Dieter Zetsche is a German engineer and current chairman of TUI AG. He was the Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz until 22 May 2019, a role he had held since 2006 in addition to being a member of the company's board since 1998.

Zetsche was born while his father, Herbert Zetsche, a civil engineer, was temporarily in Turkey for a dam construction project. The family returned to Germany in 1956. Dieter Zetsche attended school in Oberursel (near Frankfurt am Main) and studied electrical engineering from 1971 to 1976 at the University of Karlsruhe; he graduated as an engineer. He completed his doctorate in engineering in 1982 at the University of Paderborn.

Zetsche joined Daimler-Benz in 1976, working in the research department. In 1981, he became Assistant Development Manager at the Vehicles business unit. He became a member of Daimler Chrysler's Board of Management in 1998 and served as the President/CEO of Chrysler Group from mid-2000 to 31 December 2005, where he was credited with a turnaround of DCX's American operations. Since 1 January 2006 he succeeded Jürgen Schrempp as Chairman of DaimlerChrysler (now Daimler AG), being succeeded in the position of Chrysler Group CEO by Thomas W. LaSorda.

Zetsche was the main influence behind the demerger of Daimler and Chrysler in 2007, which ended in the newly formed Daimler AG. Following profit warnings in 2012 and 2013, weak sales in China and tensions with Daimler's powerful labour representatives, his contract was renewed for only three years instead of the expected five. He received €14.4 million in pay and bonuses in 2014, making him the second-highest paid employee at a listed German company. After a record year for car sales and revenue in 2015, Zetsche's contract was extended to 2019.

Zetsche is credited with bringing significant core changes to the Mercedes-Benz company in an effort to turn around a decade-long downward spiral in product quality and customer satisfaction. He was named in Time Magazine's 2006's list of 100 most influential people. On the invitation of the Green Party’s leadership, Zetsche was invited to address the 2016 party conference.

On 26 September 2018, it was announced that Zetsche will step down as the company's CEO in May 2019 to comply with a two-year-long hiatus regulatory rule before becoming chairman of Daimler's supervisory board in 2021.

Chrysler headquarters advertising the website ""
On 30 June 2006 Chrysler Group announced the Employee Pricing Plus program, which featured Dieter Zetsche as Dr. Z (Doctor Zee), the DaimlerChrysler spokesman for a series of United States and Canadian television commercials. also animated in cartoon format on the company's Ask Dr. Z website, which began on 1 July.

The "Ask Dr. Z" campaign included television, radio, print, online, in-dealership and customer relationship marketing media components and aggressive marketing tactics (mobile billboards, aerial banners, street teams), as well as targeting the NASCAR fan community. In the "Ask Dr. Z" ad campaign he provides answers to customers' questions and exits by saying "Auf Wiedersehen" (German for "Goodbye" or literally "on seeing again").

The ad campaign emphasized the consumer benefits of the best of American and German engineering and design built into every Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicle. One included Zetsche riding in a Jeep Liberty crossing a pile of logs, another showed him at the trunk of a Dodge Caravan minivan heading a soccer ball, and the last showed him at the wheel of a Chrysler Pacifica when it undergoes a crash test where he emerges from the wreckage unscathed.

As a response to shrinking sales, the Employee Pricing Plus program was extended through the end of August and three new TV ads, which did not feature Dr. Z, were added to the August campaign. After three months however DaimlerChrysler hurriedly withdrew the Dr. Z campaign due to a significant loss in market share. However, some of the Dr. Z ads can still be seen on Canadian television. In later broadcasts, the tagline in Dr. Z TV ads was changed to 'See the best in German and North American design in your Dodge and Chrysler dealer.'

The campaign was criticized for having the wrong guy for doing funny ads. CNW Marketing Research poll showed most people thought Dr. Z was a fictional character, did not notice the employee discount offer in the ads and radio commercial listeners had difficulty understanding his German accent.

In February 2018, even before the announcement of his departure from Daimler, in its Annual General Meeting held by tourism company TUI AG, Zetsche was elected as a member of the Supervisory Board. This was officially confirmed in May 2019 when Zetsche was announced as new chairman of TUI's Supervisory Board.

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