BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

Monitoring Desk

FRANKFURT: BMW (BMWG.DE) has named Oliver Zipse as its new CEO, continuing the German carmaker’s tradition of promoting production chiefs to the top job even as the auto industry expands into new areas such as technology and services.

Hailing Zipse’s “decisive” leadership style, BMW hopes the 55-year-old can help the company regain its edge in electric cars and win back the premium market lead lost to Mercedes-Benz under his consensus-seeking predecessor.

But some analysts questioned whether Zipse was the right choice when new fields such as software and services like car-sharing are becoming increasingly important to carmakers.

“What is intriguing is the cultural bias to appoint the head of production. It works sometimes but it’s not guaranteed. Being good at building cars is not a defining edge the way it was 20 years ago,” Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said.

Current BMW CEO Harald Krueger, and former chiefs Norbert Reithofer, Bernd Pischetsrieder and Joachim Milberg were all heads of production before they took the top job.

Zipse joined BMW as a trainee in 1991 and served as head of brand and product strategies and boss of BMW’s Oxford plant in England before becoming board member for production.

He will become chief executive on Aug. 16, taking over from Krueger, 53, after he said he would not be available for a second term.

“With Oliver Zipse, a decisive strategic and analytical leader will assume the Chair of the Board of Management of BMW AG. He will provide the BMW Group with fresh momentum in shaping the mobility of the future,” said Nobert Reithofer, chairman of BMW’s supervisory board.

BMW shares were up 0.9 percent at 0910 GMT.

Zipse emerged as favorite because he helped expand BMW’s efficient production network in Hungary, China and the United States, in a move that has delivered industry-leading profit margins despite the company’s relatively small scale. (Reuters)

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