BMW CEO Calls It Quits, Won't Seek Seek Another Term

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Four years after taking the helm of BMW, Harald Krüger is pulling a Lyndon Johnson. The 27-year Bimmer veteran has decided not to seek a second term as CEO, the automaker reported Friday, leaving it in search of new leadership at a pivotal time in its history.

To any onlooker, it seems Krüger had enough of guiding the German luxury marque through an increasingly thorny landscape, with challenges posed by stagnating sales in the West, an economic downturn in the East, and costly, must-have EV roadmaps.

“After more than ten years in the Board of Management, more than four of which as the CEO of the BMW Group, I would like to pursue new professional endeavours and leverage my diverse international experience for new projects and ventures,” Krüger said in a statement reported by BMW’s Supervisory Board.

Krüger’s predecessor, Dr. Robert Reithofer, now chairman of BMW AG, praised Krüger’s “unwavering dedication” and “great personal commitment” to the automaker. The board sits down to decide on a successor July 18th.

Unlike rival Audi and its parent company, Volkswagen Group, BMW took a more cautious path towards the electrified offerings no car company can be without, meaning the brand’s upcoming iX3 electric crossover will come to market after similar models from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Jaguar got a jump on all German automakers in this fledgling segment.

Indeed, BMW’s slow path to electrification and odd choice for an introductory EV model (the niche i3) was seen as a major stain on Krüger’s time as CEO. While the company plans to have 25 electrified vehicles on sale by 2023, and a trio of “normal” electric models within a couple of years, ambitions are higher elsewhere in the industry. The most recent introductions in the BMW fold are a hulking SUV (X7), redesigned 3 Series sedan, and resurrected 8 Series ultra-lux coupe.

During Krüger’s tenure, BMW slipped behind Mercedes-Benz in terms of global sales — an embarrassment after years spent at the top of the sales charts. The automaker’s European market share slipped in 2017, and last year saw its steadily rising sales in the region pull a 180.

A similar pattern plagued the vital U.S. market, though the annual sales drops seen in 2016 and 2017 appear to be a thing of the past. Sales rebounded slightly in 2018 and are up 2 percent over the first half of 2019. BMW can give thanks to the X7, which has sold more units this year than the X4 and X6 combined. According to the company, models like the X7 are needed to fund the costly development of low-margin green vehicles.

While BMW, under Krüger, did push up the timeline for its new crop of electrified models (the target date was originally going to be 2025), the brand is still seen as lagging. Perhaps history will show the cautious approach to be the correct one, though the zealous hatred of all things ICE by European lawmakers says otherwise.

[Image: BMW Group]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Cognoscenti Cognoscenti on Jul 08, 2019

    I'm as big a fan as any that BMW has ever had for a customer. I've owned and/or driven regularly (and hard) just about every BMW chassis since the 2002, some more than one stint. Especially E30s. My first saw 250K+ miles before I sold it still running and driving well for a song to a friend in need, and my last E30 was a swap car with E36 and E46 engine & drivetrain. There were E36, E46, E38, E39, E60, E65 and more in the mix. I currently daily a final model E90 M3 6MT ZCP. So, it is with despair that I look upon what BMW has become. Good riddance, Harald Krüger. Can you take Adrian van Hooydonk with you? IMHO the best 3-Series for sale today is the Honda Accord 2.0t Touring.

    • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Jul 08, 2019

      I wish TTAC had a voting system specifically for this comment. I agree wholeheartedly, although my history with the brand is a few decades short of yours. Still, I wouldn't put my money into a single one of their POS' they're peddling. As I've learned, modern BMWs are poorly made, the company refuses to stand behind warranty repair work performed at their dealers, and the joy of driving has been removed from their products. BMW makes utter garbage and has apparently for some time.

  • Cprescott Cprescott on Jul 09, 2019

    I loved BMW when they were serious about building svelte and lightweight cars. The 2002 was a sweet and simple vehicle that reminds me of what a BMW should be. Unfortunately like most of us men, as we aged, we added thickness to our bodies and pretty soon it is hard to fathom our teenage self and what became of us. It has been decades since BMW built something that could be considered beautiful.

  • Slavuta Why America needs school buses altogether? When I was in school, I rode on a regular city bus
  • Jeff Buy whatever works for you if you own an EV and are happy with it good, if you buy a hybrid or plug in hybrid and it works for you good, if neither and you like your ICE the way it is that is also good. I believe over time EVs will get better and have a larger segment of the market.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Is New Jersey better than Old Jersey?
  • Tassos Jong-iL Looking forward to buying 2 of these with all of those Rubles we have been earning lately.
  • Dartdude I have a 17 Ram 1500, love the dial and took to it right a way. don't have a lever blocking the dash panel or taking up space on the console.