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Volkswagen and Daimler at loggerheads over boardroom defection

The Volkswagen logo is displayed on a 2014 Beetle TDI during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 15, 201
The Volkswagen logo is displayed on a 2014 Beetle TDI during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 15, 201

By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - German carmakers Volkswagen and Daimler are at loggerheads over the potential defection of a Daimler executive, whom VW wants to head up its trucks business but the CEO of Daimler has said cannot join a rival anytime soon.

Andreas Renschler, who had been tipped as a future Daimler CEO, resigned unexpectedly on Tuesday as head of manufacturing at the company's Mercedes-Benz Cars business.

Volkswagen (VW) has offered an attractive package to Renschler to head up its trucks operations, a VW source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday, confirming newspaper reports, but without giving details.

Europe's biggest carmaker has been struggling for years to forge an alliance of its heavy-trucks brands MAN SE and Scania and wants Renschler, who ran Daimler Trucks for almost a decade, to join as soon as possible, the source added.

However, Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche said late on Thursday that Renschler would not be able to join a rival soon because of a non-compete clause in his contract.

Such clauses usually prevent executives from switching to a rival for about one year, the VW source said.

The stakes are high. Having spent billions of euros in its holdings in MAN and Scania, VW is growing frustrated with a lack of progress under 68-year-old trucks chief Leif Oestling, whose contract at VW expires in 2015.

VW's lawyers are thus likely to be pouring over Renschler's contract.

Germany's Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper reported on Thursday that VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech had indicated an offer was made to Renschler that may soon be approved by VW's supervisory board, due to meet next on February 21.

The tussle is not the first time that executive moves between domestic carmaking rivals have proved sensitive.

The appointment of Carlos Tavares as PSA Peugeot Citroen's CEO-in-waiting raised French eyebrows even after three months had elapsed since his resignation as Carlos Ghosn's second-in-command at Renault .

Wolfgang Bernhard, formerly Mercedes-Benz production chief who switched jobs with Renschler last April, has also moved between Daimler and VW. He rejoined Daimler in 2009 after being ousted at VW two years earlier.

(Additional reporting by Jan Schwartz and Edward Taylor; Editing by Mark Potter)