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Zetsche could face manslaughter charge

by Bill Cawthon on

Former Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche is the subject of an involuntary manslaughter investigation by German prosecutors. The authorities are looking into an allegation that Zetsche, as head of Daimler AG, bears responsibility for the July death of Christof Kemmler, a 27-year-old engineer, at a testing facility near Papenburg, Germany.

According to German magazine Der Spiegel, Kemmler and another Daimler engineer were testing sound levels in the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster while driving at about 40 miles when they were hit by a Mercedes SUV being driven at high speed by a 25-year-old trainee. Kemmler died in the accident and his passenger was injured.

Kemmler’s family raised questions about safety measures at the track and the trainee’s qualifications, alleging that Daimler AG is guilty of gross negligence.

Daimler AG released a statement about the allegations: “With regard to reports about criminal charges and preliminary investigations of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, represented by Chairman of the Board of Management Dieter Zetsche, concerning alleged gross negligence resulting in death, the Company states as follows:

‘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.'”

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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