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Cannon Replaces Ousted Lieb as President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA

Mercedes-Benz USA has announced the appointment of Stephen Cannon, 50, to be the new president and CEO. He replaces Ernst Lieb who was ousted from the top role because of financial irregularities around personal expenses improperly paid for by the company.

Cannon, in his new role, will report to Dr. Joachim Schmidt, executive vice president of sales & marketing for Mercedes-Benz Cars in Stuttgart, Germany. He will have overall responsibility for the Mercedes-Benz, Maybach, Sprinter and smart brands in the United States. Cannon will lead MBUSA's more than 1,700 employees and 356 dealers throughout the U.S.

Prior to this appointment, he was vice president of marketing for MBUSA with overall responsibility for marketing communications, market research and product management of the Mercedes-Benz and Maybach brands in the U.S. (Apparently the Maybach association – some would say failure in the U.S. – didn't taint his career at all.)

He replaces Ernst Lieb who left the company in October. According to published reports, Lieb was forced out from Mercedes-Benz for charging personal expenses to the company for him and his wife. Lieb had helped steer the company through some strong growth in 2011.

Cannon, though, has a strong resume, especially with the one product that has done more to turn around Mercedes-Benz' fortunes in the USA than any other: the M Class. Cannon began his automotive career in 1991 as executive assistant to the president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz of North America (predecessor to MBUSA). From there, Cannon moved to Stuttgart and joined a small team tasked with the development, manufacturing and launch of the M-Class, the first Mercedes-Benz SUV ever made in and for this market.

One thing that may have helped Cannon's ascendancy in the Mercedes-Benz hierarchy was his military training. Cannon has a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from the United States Military Academy at West Point where he graduated with honors. He is a United States Army Airborne Ranger and served as 1st Lieutenant in West Germany during the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Mercedes-Benz is having a strong 2011 with sales up 20 percent over 2010. One of Cannon's top responsibilities will be closing the gap with BMW, which has sold 272,873 vehicles in the first eleven months of 2011 vs. Mercedes-Benz sales of 236,415 vehicles. Audi, the third German automaker, is a distant third with sales of 101,629 through November.