March 5 - Daimler's chief executive, Dieter Zetsche talks to Reuters at the Geneva car show after unveiling a new Mercedes seen as key to the premium carmaker's turnaround. ROUGH-CUT (No reporter narration).
(ROUGH CUT ONLY - NO REPORTER NARRATION) In his first major appearance since the board extended his contract by less than expected last month, Zetsche will be looking to the CLA compact to fix Daimler's chronic underperformance in small cars, as well as his own management record. Both objectives face long odds. Zetsche, 59, is on notice that Europe's luxury laggard must narrow the gap with BMW and Volkswagen AG's Audi by repairing a botched China expansion and winning new buyers for an expanded range of minis and subcompacts. The CLA, made its debut at the Geneva car show on Tuesday, is a test of Daimler's ability to shake off a stuffy brand image partly blamed for Mercedes' failure to keep pace with its two main competitors. Its premiere closely follows the February 21 board decision to trim Zetsche's next mandate to three years from the expected five and swap the manufacturing and truck division heads, in a move seen as improving both men's CEO prospects.