Dieter Zetsche may have to make way for Wolfgang Bernhard before his contract is out in 2013. Zetsche is also head of Mercedes-Benz Cars division, a role he may have to give up to Bernhard next year, according to Germany's Focus magazine.

Daimler AG may be looking for fresh leadership blood but the company has denied rumors that its CEO, Dieter Zetsche, will be stepping down early to accommodate Wolfgang Bernhard. Zetsche's contract runs until 2013.

But Zetsche is also chief of the automaker's Mercedes-Benz Cars division too and if one parses the denial, it could mean he stays as CEO but will have to hand over the reigns of the Benz brand early to Bernhard. Bernhard is head of production at Mercedes-Benz and was recently promoted to the management board of Daimler too.

According to a report by Germany's Focus magazine, Zetsche will hand over Mercedes-Benz Cars division to Bernhard next year and will step down a year early, in 2012 to make way for Bernhard to also be CEO of Daimler AG. But Daimler has denied the report and issued a statement saying that Zetsche is staying put until 2013. They did not specify whether that also meant as head of the car division.

"The Focus report is fictional and without foundation," Daimler AG said in the statement.

At the Geneva auto show this year, Zetsche also denied that Bernhard would be his successor.

"It's no secret that we worked well together...but he's not my crown prince and he's not my deputy," Zetsche told reporters.

Daimler CEO Zetsche to step down early - rumors