In a move that some saw foresaw as inevitable after the company missed earnings estimates for the first time in a decade, BMW Group managing board chairman Harald Krüger will step down from his post at some point soon. Krüger, who has been with BMW since 1992 and served on the board of management for over a decade, is quoted as saying he would like to pursue new professional endeavors, and thanked all BMW Group employees for their commitment and efforts during a time of immense change in the automotive industry. He also went on to express the honor he felt working with a team of incredible individuals who helped him set the automaker on a path to continued success in the future.
The supervisory board of the BMW Group, which is chaired by Norbert Reithofer, is set to convene on July 18, at which time the matter of a new CEO will be addressed. Reithofer is said to be supportive in relation to Krüger’s decision to move on after more than a quarter-century at BMW, but more than a few automotive news media outlets are citing BMW’s weakest earnings performance since the Great Recession, and a slow entry to the electrical vehicle market after the barnstorming effort of the i3 and i8, as reasons for Krüger’s departure.
Krüger took over the helm from Reithofer in 2015, and although BMW has enjoyed respectable sales in the time since, many suspected his time would be up in the near future after earnings suffered in the midst of what has been classified as slow adaptation to electrification as a motivation source. After BMW introduced the i3 in 2013 and the i8 in 2014, there have been no significant EV models added to the lineup since, even though electrified versions of conventional models like the 5 Series have enjoyed decently strong demand.
Dipping into the rumor mill a bit further, Oliver Zipse appears to be the most likely replacement. 55 years old and from Heidelberg, Germany, Zipse joined BMW in 1991 as a trainee, and much of his career with the company has centered around production and technical planning. Since 2015, he has been on the board of managing directors serving under Krüger, and overseeing production. Krüger, 53, is an engineer by trade.
Appointing a production and operations manager to CEO isn’t a new idea. Apple has enjoyed record-breaking earnings and frequently worn the crown of the world’s most valuable company since Tim Cook took over in 2011, after helping to manage worldwide operations since the late 1990s. Only time will tell how Krüger’s tenure as CEO will be remembered, but we remain optimistic for the future of the company.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]