Ola Kallenius, 52
Chairman of the Board of Management, Daimler
TITLE: Chairman of the Board of Management
BASED: Stuttgart, Germany
After graduating with degrees in finance and management, Ola Kallenius started his career at Daimler-Benz in 1993 as a management trainee. He worked as a manager in corporate controlling at Mercedes-Benz U.S. until 2000, when he was named a senior manager in procurement at DaimlerChrysler. Kallenius then became executive director of operations at McLaren in 2003 and managing director at Mercedes’ high-performance engines unit in the UK in 2005. He returned to North America in 2009 as head of Mercedes-Benz U.S. He then held positions of increasing responsibility in Germany and was named a member of Daimler’s management board in 2015. He ascended to the top spot at Daimler in May 2019, when he became chairman of the board, succeeding Dieter Zetsche.
REASON FOR WINNING
Ola Kallenius, the first non-German CEO of Daimler and its Mercedes-Benz brand, has been tested by a range of unforeseen challenges, from the coronavirus pandemic to the global semiconductor shortage, during his first two years in charge. This year the native of Sweden presided over one of Mercedes’ most critical launches with the EQS, the brand’s full-electric vehicle in the upper premium segment. At the same time, Kallenius is pushing the automaker further into the digital realm, with plans to digitalize the entire sales and distribution network -- all while aiming to lower the company’s break-even point, trim fixed costs, realign brands such as AMG and Maybach, and broaden Mercedes’s lineup and customer base.
He also completed the separation between Mercedes’ cars and vans and trucks and buses businesses, potentially unlocking hidden shareholder value. And Daimler delivered current value, too: In the first half of 2021 the automaker reported 5.2 billion euros in operating profit, equivalent to an operating margin of almost 12 percent, making it one of the most profitable of all global automakers.