No, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche did not kill a man

Illustration for article titled No, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche did not kill a man

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, the star of Chrysler's 2006 "Dr. Z." ad campaign, is under investigation for suspected involuntary manslaughter. Except it's not what you think. UPDATE!

When a very salacious headline crossed our Twitter feed a few minutes ago saying "DJ Daimler CEO reported under investigation for suspected involuntary manslaughter - @CNBC via Dow Jones Newswires" from the "@BreakingNews" twitter feed — we sort of flipped out. What would cause Dieter "Dr. Z" Zetsche, the CEO and Chairman of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars since 2006, to possibly, even accidentally, kill a man (or a woman)? I mean, he seemed so nice in those "Dr. Z." Chrysler ads from a while back. (Full Disclosure: I know his kids — we attended the same high school.)

Well, it turns out he didn't.

Reuters has the full story:

German public prosecutors have started investigating Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche on suspicions of involuntary manslaughter involving the fatal accident of a 27-year-old engineer caused by an intern on a test track.

"There is an investigation," senior public prosecutor Alexander Retemeyer told Reuters on Friday, confirming a report in German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung.

"It is highly doubtful that the chief executive personally can be held responsible for this, however."

A spokesman for Daimler said the company was not informed of any investigation, and if there was one, it should be directed at the group's management board and not Zetsche personally.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung reported earlier that the parents of the 27-year old engineer felt the company should not have put the intern behind the wheel of a fast car on a test track.

"There is already a ruling from the district court in Papenburg in which the judge expressly found that Daimler could not be held at fault in any way for the accident," the Daimler spokesman added.


Still, you know, when you condense it to the basic statement — "under investigation for suspected involuntary manslaughter" — it sure sounds like Dr. Z. hardcore accidentally cut a bitch, doesn't it?

The reality is that this yet another case of over-eager public prosecutors overreaching with their prosecutorial authority. What's next? Are we going to sue the shareholders for investing in a company that would allow the Board to elect a Chairman that would hire the division heads that would hire the managers that would set the policies that would allow an intern to do something stupid? Sure, why the hell not.

UPDATE: Here's the official statement from Daimler PR:

In legal proceedings against the perpetrator of the accident before the Papenburg District Court on July 12, both the judge and the public prosecutor explicitly stated that the company Daimler, and consequently also the Chairman of the Board of Management, were in no way to blame. In fact, the court found that the driver was solely to blame because he did not look straight ahead at the road in front of him for a distance of several kilometers. The initiation of preliminary investigations of the Board of Management is a pure formality.

We assume that these proceedings will be discontinued.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Jonathan Harper

Track intern you say?

...wasn't me!