Meet the new boss of Mercedes-Benz in Singapore

Youth takes the reins at Mercedes-Benz importer Daimler South East Asia, where new chief executive Claudius Steinhoff has started work

SINGAPORE – Daimler South East Asia has a new man at the top. Claudius Steinhoff has taken on the role of president and chief executive officer at the company, which imports Mercedes-Benz cars in Singapore.

At just 32 (for “at least a couple more days,” he responded to a query), he is the youngest person to hold the top job there. He is succeeding Philipp Hagenburger, whose last day with Daimler was September 30.

The new boss started at Daimler AG in 2011, when he joined the Corporate Treasury department as a member of its Cash Management team. He moved to the Marketing and Sales Mercedes-Benz Cars department and worked on the A-Class, then became the Product Manager for the current-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS. 

Before being posted to Singapore, Mr Steinhoff was the Executive Assistant to Matthias Lührs, Head of Region Overseas Mercedes-Benz Cars. In that position, the new CEO “amassed the experience in driving success for the brand in overseas markets,” Daimler South East Asia said in a statement.

As for the outgoing chief executive, Mr Hagenburger became the boss of Daimler here in only May 2019. Before that he was the head of Mercedes-Benz Romania. He spoke lovingly of its capital Bucharest, and will likely want to spend time there now that he is ending his time at Daimler. “Singapore is the perfect place to mark the close of my career at Daimler and Mercedes-Benz,” he said in a statement.

Though his time here was brief, local staff speak with affection of Mr Hagenburger. They say he never threw his weight around, and were bemused by his preference for simply calling a Grab to take him home from events instead of riding in his chauffeured Mercedes. Graciously, he chose not to kick up a fuss with this reporter for misspelling his name in a national newspaper.

The incoming boss appears to be relishing the challenge of getting to grips with our market. 

“Singapore is one of the most unique places in the world to own, sell and market a car,” Mr Steinhoff said in a statement. Or understatement.

He takes the helm here at a time of upheaval for Daimler itself. Global chief executive Ola Källenius said this week that the company’s break-even point is too high, and that he wants to slash costs by 20 percent by 2025, compared to 2019. 

A former senior executive with Daimler who knows Mr Steinhoff and worked with him in the past describes him as extremely capable, and told CarBuyer he is fully up to the job of keeping Mercedes at the top of Singapore’s luxury car market.

Given his youth, some in the car trade will wonder if Mr Steinhoff arrives with something to prove, but our source believes the opposite is true. He is the new CEO precisely because he has already proven himself.

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Leow Julen
CarBuyer's managing editor is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 26 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.