How Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius is refocusing for an electric future


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Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius became CEO in 2019 but has been working for Mercedes since 1993 in almost every part of the company. During that period, Mercedes spent time getting a lot bigger; the company famously merged with Chrysler for a time, forming a giant called DaimlerChrysler. But, over the past few years, it’s actually been getting much smaller and more focused. The Chrysler deal was undone and, just recently, Ola spun off the truck division into its own public company called Daimler Truck, leaving Mercedes-Benz to stand alone as a premium car brand.

Car companies are either consolidating into giant conglomerates like Stellantis or shrinking and focusing like Mercedes. A lot of that is driven by the huge shift to electric vehicles and then, on top of that, to cars essentially becoming rolling computers. You’ll hear Ola refer to cars as “digital products” a lot — and to Mercedes itself as a tech company. (Actually, he says it’s a luxury and tech company.)

Mercedes now has two new EVs, the EQS and the EQE, both of which have massive infotainment screens running Mercedes’ proprietary MBUX system, which even has its own voice assistant called Hey Mercedes. I had to ask Ola about Apple’s recent announcement that the next version of CarPlay would be able to take over every display in the car, including the instrument cluster. Apple showed a Mercedes logo on a slide during that presentation — so, is Ola ready to hand over his UI to Cupertino?

Let’s find out. Ola Källenius, CEO of Mercedes-Benz. Here we go.


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Decoder is a production of The Verge, and part of the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Today’s episode was produced by Creighton DeSimone and Jackie McDermott and it was edited by Callie Wright.

The Decoder music is by Breakmaster Cylinder. Our Sr Audio Director is Andrew Marino and our Executive Producer is Eleanor Donovan.

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