Wolfgang Bernhard's ascendancy to a management board post at Daimler boosted shares in the German carmaker on Monday and fuelled talk he may be chief executive Dieter Zetsche's heir apparent.

Analysts see the dashing 49-year-old with movie star good looks as a master of cutting costs and boosting efficiency, although his brusque style has irked labour in the past, Reuters noted.

Daimler said Bernhard would head production and purchasing at Daimler's Mercedes-Benz Cars premium auto unit in addition to his role heading the group's vans business.

"We see this decision leading to higher profits," LBBW analyst Frank Biller told the news agency.

Volkswagen shares rose when then-CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder lured Bernhard in October 2004 to head the struggling VW brand.

He managed to turn the brand around but made enemies in the process by threatening to sell or shut down VW parts plants. He left VW in 2007 after a boardroom coup ousted Pischetsrieder.

He was briefly in the headlines when he advised buyout group Cerberus on its 2007 purchase from Daimler of Chrysler - a business he knew well from his time as Zetsche's top aide at Chrysler when both men worked there.

After closing six plants and cutting 26,000 jobs - a fifth of Chrysler's workforce - Bernhard was poised to run Mercedes in 2004 but ran afoul of labour by calling the business a "restructuring case".

The former McKinsey consultant was turfed out after backing a failed mutiny against then-CEO Juergen Schrempp, who sacrificed Bernhard to win labour's support and survive a power struggle over ties to floundering Japanese ally Mitsubishi.

Analysts told Reuters Bernhard now seemed to have the inside track to succeed Zetsche - who is both group CEO and head of Mercedes - after Zetsche's contract is renewed one more time until 2013.

"Zetsche and Bernhard are one ticket," said Christian Breitsprecher, auto sector analyst at Sal. Oppenheim.

Mercedes returned to profit in the third quarter thanks to an aggressive efficiency drive, but Bernstein analyst Max Warburton said there was still fat to trim.

"We still think Mercedes has a labour productivity problem and large fixed cost reduction potential. The company also now has a man well placed to make those cuts - if Bernhard is able to do even half of what he achieved at VW, then we can expect a structural lift in Mercedes margins," he told clients in a note.

Analysts also think Bernhard has learned by hard experience how to cut costs without alienating workers.

"I cannot imagine that he will make the same mistake again," NordLB analyst Frank Schwope said.