Exler, 51, announced his departure to the brand’s dealer board Thursday afternoon, has accepted a job outside the auto industry and is expected to remain based in Atlanta, a source said.
Speeks previously was president of Mercedes-Benz Japan and has worked for the company in Japan, Dubai, Vietnam and Germany.
Mercedes is also feeling the pressure from a resurgent BMW. Powered by new and updated product launches this year, BMW bested Mercedes in U.S. deliveries in the first quarter. While BMW has racked up three consecutive months of sales gains this year, Mercedes extended its streak of consecutive monthly sales losses to five.
Speeks’ experience in China may be helpful as the global luxury automaker finds itself in the middle of an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.
Speeks, a native of Great Britain, oversaw Mercedes’ rise in China as the nation became the German automaker’s largest market.
In early 2013, he chided independent Mercedes-Benz dealers in China for being lazy and threatened them with consequences.
"Your performance as dealers worries me," he wrote at the time. "A telemarketer in a call center could achieve these low sales volumes.”
Speeks warned that those who failed to meet Mercedes' standards must expect consequences "no matter how good our business relationship has been in the past."
Exler foreshadowed the challenges ahead for his successor when he spoke with Automotive News in April.