FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- Daimler extended the contract of Mercedes-Benz Cars production boss Wolfgang Bernhard by an additional five years in a move that was widely expected.
"This management continuity is important for the ongoing consistent implementation of the division's strategy and for the achievement of our corporate goals," Manfred Bischoff, chairman of Daimler's supervisory board, said in a statement on Friday.
Bernhard, 51, is a trusted lieutenant of Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche and is viewed as a likely successor to take the top job after Zetsche, 59, retires.
Bernhard returned to Daimler in 2009, five years after being pushed out of the company. He departed soon after being demoted for opposing former-CEO Juergen Schrempp's bid to invest heavily in Mitsubishi's turnaround. At the time, Daimler had a controlling 37 percent stake in Mitsubishi.
Bernhard moved to Volkswagen to lead the core VW brand, a job he held for less than a year. He clashed with VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech and angered VW unions by threatening to relocate production of the Golf outside Germany to reduce costs.
Since returning to Daimler, Bernhard has stayed out of the public eye and taken on a more low-key approach to running Mercedes Benz Cars, which includes the Mercedes and Smart brands.
He has been instrumental in Mercedes's drive to develop a range of smaller cars critical for the luxury automaker to meet tighter emissions standards, attract younger buyers and boost volume sales, as the carmaker seeks to topple BMW as the world's best-selling premium brand.
Bernhard's new contract runs until Feb. 28, 2018, Daimler said.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report