In early January Thomas Banholzer took over as manager of network design and procurement for vehicle logistics at Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), Daimler’s US division with responsibility for Mercedes-Benz and smart passenger cars, and Sprinter vans. He took over the role from Markus Gichert, who has returned to Daimler’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, and is currently managing Banholzer’s previous role in charge of overseas distribution, including ocean shipping.

Gichert first came to the role in January 2009 when he was tasked with establishing an outbound logistics planning and procurement department in the US with direct links to the global vehicle logistics team in Stuttgart, following Daimler reassuming these responsibilities in the US from Chrysler.

As well as establishing MBUSA’s outbound network, Gichert and his team have been active in Daimler’s NAFTA project, which is seeking ways of combining logistics and finding efficiencies between Daimler’s other business units in North America, including Daimler Trucks North America as well as divisions in Mexico and Canada.

Banholzer takes over the job following a period of strong growth for Daimler in the US, which saw vehicle sales rise 14% in 2012 to 305,072 units. Daimler is also set to continue a new product onslaught in its goal to catch BMW and Audi and regain the top spot in the premium segments. The brand has plans to launch ten new passenger car models by 2015, including the next generation C-Class that will be built at Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama.

“Our next objectives are the expansion of the distribution network for the extensive Mercedes-Benz model attack as well as the preparation of the next generation of the C-Class distributed from the Tuscaloosa production plant in 2014,” Banholzer told Automotive Logistics. “Furthermore, we will try to implement continuous overlapping processes across all Daimler business units in the NAFTA Region.”

Luca Rossi has been appointed vice president, Automotive & Industrial Solutions, Europe at Chep, the pallet and container pooling services provider. He replaces Marcelo Di Benedetto, who has left to take up a new role as chief operations officer at Straton Capital, a specialist global supply chain investor.

Rossi joined Chep Italy in 1999 as sales manager and, following a series of expansions to his responsibilities, became country general manager, Chep Italy, in 2008.

“Luca brings an exceptional focus on customers and team building to his new role in Chep Automotive & Industrial Solutions,” said Jason Rabbino, group president, Containers for Chep’s parent company, Brambles Limited. “We are pleased to have him stepping up to this key role. Chep’s commitment to our customers’ success will be further strengthened by Luca’s experience and vision.”

Rossi said it was a great honour to be in the new role. “I am excited to lead this team and to continue building on the positive growth momentum. I am committed to strengthen our efforts by listening to our customers and turning Chep into the preferred service partner for delivering total packaging related supply chain savings in the automotive industry and beyond.”

Rabbino also thanked Di Benedetto stating that he had been “an exceptional leader for the business and he can look back on many great successes. We thank him for his passion for the business, outstanding dedication and achievements and wish him well in his future endeavours.”

“I was fortunate to lead a great team, with unparalleled skills and commitment,” said Di Benedetto. “I am certain that Luca will continue to strengthen our strategy and identify opportunities to expand our services to Chep’s customers.”

UK fleet management and logistics provider, Paragon Group, which recently bought the vehicle services division of Stobart, has announced that Mike Pilkington has been appointed to the role of director of Paragon Automotive as part of the recent deal.

Pilkington joins Paragon from the Manheim Group where he was managing director of Manheim Remarketing and brings with him 30 years experience in the automotive sector.

He will now be responsible for providing strategic direction and overseeing the day to day management of the Paragon Automotive business.

“I am delighted to welcome Mike to the Paragon team and look forward to working alongside him in the future,” said Stephen Hucklesby, chief executive of Paragon Group. “Mike is a great asset to Paragon and brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be fundamental to the business.  Mike joins us at an exciting time with the acquisition of Paragon Vehicle Solutions marking a major milestone for Paragon and consolidating our position as the UK’s market leader in vehicle processing and captive fleet management.”

Alongside the appointment of Pilkington, Paragon has announced that Andrew Hetzel has become integration director – Finance. Steve Maltby will replace Andrew Hetzel as managing director of Fleet Solutions whilst retaining his responsibilities for Paragon Remarketing. Kevin Riddle, group finance director, and Neil Burrows, group sales & marketing director both continue in their current roles for the expanded group.

Finally, the new Paragon Vehicle Services division will be led by Stephen Hucklesby as he oversees its integration into Paragon Group over the course of the next year.  Alongside this, Stephen will become chief executive officer for the Paragon Group.

Ray LaHood, secretary at the US Department of Transport, has announced he is leaving the role and will not stay on for the second term of Obama’s presidency.

“I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the US Department of Transportation,” he said in a message to department employees. “It has been an honour and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity.  I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.”

LaHood, a Republican, served in the US House of Representatives from 1995-2009, representing the 18th Congressional District of Illinois, and also served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He was selected by President Obama to serve as secretary in 2009.

The Department of Transport has yet to announce who will replace him.