Rainer Schmückle has replaced well-known industry figure James L. Hebe as president and CEO of Freightliner LLC. The announcement was made early last month by Freightliner parent DaimlerChrysler AG (DC), which identified slumping sales at the Portland, OR-based truck maker as the primary cause of overall financial difficulties for its worldwide commercial vehicles group.

Schmückle, who had served as Freightliner's CFO between 1993 and 1997, comes back to the truck maker from DC headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, where he was senior vp and corporate controller.

The company also appointed Roger Nielsen as Freightliner COO. He had been serving as the vice president of the North American truck manufacturer's specialized vehicles business segment.

The North American market leader in heavy trucks, Freightliner expanded rapidly during Hebe's nine years as its head executive, acquiring Ford's heavy-truck business, which it relaunched as Sterling Trucks, as well as Western Star Trucks, which it recently rolled into the Sterling operation. The company also moved to expand its commercial vehicle product lineup by acquiring, among others, school bus manufacturer Thomas Built Buses, fire equipment maker American LaFrance Corp., and the light truck Freightliner Custom Chassis.

A production engineer by training, Schmückle joined Daimler-Benz AG, which became DaimlerChrysler in 1998, after graduating from the Univ. of Karlsruhe in 1984. He has spent his entire career in the company's commercial truck operations except for three years as the CFO and CEO of DC's former rail business Adtranz-DaimlerChrysler Rail Systems GmbH.

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