BMW Names New CEO

CEO of BMW AG, Norbert Reithofer is stepping down early from his position in May 2015.
CEO of BMW AG, Norbert Reithofer is stepping down early from his position in May 2015.

BMW named production head Harald Krueger to succeed Norbert Reithofer as chief executive officer next year as the manufacturer seeks to maintain its rank as the world’s biggest maker of luxury cars.

Reithofer, 58, whose term as CEO was set to end in 2016, will take over as supervisory board chairman after the annual meeting in May, Munich-based BMW said in a statement today. The shift marks a step “to initiate a generational change” in top management, the automaker said.

Reithofer has led Bayerische Motoren Werke AG to record sales and earnings since taking the CEO post in 2007. He’s handing over day-to-day operations to Krueger, 49, as BMW’s namesake brand is challenged by Volkswagen AG’s Audi and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz for the top spot in luxury-auto sales by the end of the decade. Reithofer will succeed Joachim Milberg, 71, as head of the supervisory board, which in Germany has an oversight role over top management.

“I’m delighted BMW deals with this issue at an early stage,” said Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based analyst at Evercore ISI. “This takes out speculation and creates clarity.” BMW was trading down 0.6% at 91.04 euros at 11:30 a.m. in Frankfurt, paring a decline of as much as 1.8% earlier today. The stock has gained 6.8% this year.

Mercedes narrowed BMW’s lead in the US in November, and Volkswagen, the world’s second-biggest carmaker, said today that it’s hiring BMW’s development chief, Herbert Diess, to run the VW car brand. Under Krueger, BMW has introduced the i3 electric auto and i8 gasoline-electric sports car. BMW outlined a project a week ago to develop hybrid versions of all its standard models.

“BMW group plans to maintain its leading role in the premium segment,” Milberg said in a separate statement. “To achieve this, we have to hand over responsibility to the next generation at an appropriate time.”