By Edward Taylor
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Daimler's top electric motors development executive, Harald Kroeger, is joining auto supplier Robert Bosch [ROBG.UL], two people familiar with the matter told Reuters, as a battle to hire leading talents in the sector heats up.
German carmakers are investing heavily in electric cars, a segment once neglected by the industry as customers shunned their limited operating range and high cost.
But a growing political backlash against diesel fumes and recent advances in battery technology to increase the reach of an electric car by up to 50 percent have spurred major investments by Volkswagen <VOWG_p.>, Daimler and suppliers such as Bosch and Continental.
Daimler and Bosch declined to comment on Kroeger's move.
The departure of the Stanford-educated executive, Daimler's head of Development for Electrics, Electronics, and E-Drive, comes as Daimler's luxury brand Mercedes-Benz prepares to launch a range of electric models.
Hiring Kroeger is a major coup for Bosch. The German executive has held various senior roles, including the position of Head of Quality at Mercedes-Benz, and two years on the board of directors at electric car company Tesla Motors.
Kroeger helped oversee development of motors for Mercedes-Benz pure battery powered cars as well as plug-in hybrids.
He was also responsible for development of all electronics for Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and for battery development, including stationary battery storage systems and the building of a factory to manufacture battery packs for electric cars.
The development of Mercedes-Benz electric passenger cars remains in the hands of Juergen Schenk, the engineer who has overseen development of vehicles including the electric Mercedes-Benz B-Class. Kroeger was Schenk's boss.
NEW CAR PLANS
Daimler remains on track to unveil a new electric car at the Paris motor show next month, a company spokesman said. In July, the German carmaker said it had accelerated development of premium electric cars, a segment currently dominated by United States-based rival Tesla.
Stuttgart-based auto supplier Bosch has in recent years built up its expertise in electric and autonomous car technology, helping a wider group of companies to gain a foothold in the auto industry.
Bosch built the electric powertrain and steering for Google's prototype autonomous vehicle and is a supplier of driver assistance systems to Tesla.
Bosch expects sales of driver assistance systems, which include radar and video sensors used for emergency braking and sophisticated cruise control functions, to reach 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) by 2016.
In 2025, Bosch expects 125 million cars to be produced, of which 8 million will be electric cars, 8.3 million plug-in hybrids and more than 5 million hybrid vehicles.
(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Keith Weir)