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New CEO for Daimler South East Asia
WOLFGANG Huppenbauer, the chief executive officer of Daimler South East Asia, is retiring after 10 years in the post and 39 years with Mercedes-Benz.
The incoming CEO, Philipp Hagenburger, officially starts on May 1 and is moving to Singapore from Romania, where he was chief executive of Mercedes-Benz operations.
Mr Hagenburger will take on a challenging role; Daimler South East Asia oversees 12 countries around the region, with a multitude of regulatory requirements and market conditions between them.
Yet, Mr Huppenbauer is leaving while the sailing is smooth. The business won an award for the best distributorship in the world under 20,000 cars per annum last year, an internal prize that carries some prestige within Daimler. The award, says Mr Huppenbauer, was "a nice retirement present."
Mr Huppenbauer was first posted to Singapore in 1991, joining what was then Mercedes-Benz Asia from a position in Australia. He briefly returned to Germany to work on Daimler's plan to import cars here directly and take over their distribution from Cycle & Carriage, and was the head of Mercedes-Benz Singapore before becoming chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Thailand.
He returned to head Daimler South East Asia in 2009, and fostered an unusually close relationship with C&C, the sole dealer for Mercedes here. "We are dependant on them as they are on us," he says. "We might be on different sides of the boat, but we have the same objective."
Car companies with regional offices have a reputation for making their presence felt in their dealers' operations, but Mr Huppenbauer saw things differently in Singapore.
"It's different when you have a hundred dealers, then you really have to set the direction and drive things," he says. With Cycle & Carriage he saw no need to, in his words, "muck about".
One practice is retiring with Mr Huppenbauer; the era of decade-long stints for top execs is likely to be over. Car companies tend to offer three- year contracts (plus a two-year extension) instead. In more than one way, Mr Huppenbauer will be considered a unique individual.