DaimlerChrysler AG replaced the head of its North American truck unit May 25, tapping a turnaround expert to stem mounting losses at the region's biggest truck maker, according to an Associated Press story by Stephen Graham. The German-U.S. auto giant said it accepted the resignation of Jim Hebe, who had led the Freightliner unit since 1992. It named a former Freightliner finance chief, Rainer Schmueckle, to take over immediately. The company described Schmueckle, 41, as a "proven turnaround expert." The truck maker has been hit by a sharp slump in demand and prices. Company officials declined to comment on the reasons for Hebe's departure. DaimlerChrysler gives Schmueckle credit for shaking up the company's former rail unit Adtranz, which it sold to Canadian rival Bombardier Inc. for $725 million last month. Schmueckle was Freightliner's chief financial officer from 1994-1997 and is a senior vice president of DaimlerChrysler. Appointing a German to head the unit could revive the indignation that greeted DaimlerChrysler's decision last year to dispatch veteran executive Dieter Zetsche to turn around its ailing U.S. auto unit, Chrysler, according to AP. However, the company also appointed Roger Nielsen, an American, to be Freightliner's chief operating officer. In a bid to restore Freightliner to profitability, the company has announced plans to rein in production and cut 8,000 jobs by the end of this year to save about 300 million euros ($250 million). Company spokesmen declined to comment on a report in the May 25 edition of The Wall Street Journal that the company is considering selling parts of Freightliner. Under Hebe, Freightliner last year bought Canadian truck manufacturer Western Star for $400 million. Freightliner has about 40 percent of the U.S. truck market and also builds school buses, fire engines, delivery vans and motor homes. DaimlerChrysler doesn't break out earnings figures for Freightliner, which is grouped with brands such as Mercedes-Benz trucks in DCX's commercial vehicles division. The division lost 138 million euros ($120 million) in the first three months of this year, compared to a 258 million euro profit in the same period of 2000. That helped push DaimlerChrysler to an overall loss of 2.36 billion euros ($2.1 billion) for the quarter. The U.S. truck market shrank by 19 percent last year. Sales of DaimlerChrysler commercial vehicles in North America fared even worse, dropping by 21 percent. Turning Freightliner around is part of the company's three-year, $3.9 billion recovery plan. DaimlerChrysler has also promised to solidify Mercedes' lead as the world's most recognized luxury brand, bring loss-making Chrysler back into the black and improve its cooperation with Mitsubishi Motors Corp.