BMW appoints new purchasing chief amid reports of board tension


Wendt faces challenges from threatened tariffs and the cost of introducing self-driving cars.

MUNICH — BMW veteran Andreas Wendt was named head of the company’s purchasing and supplier network, taking the post vacated by Markus Duesmann, who quit the automaker in July to join Volkswagen Group.

Wendt, 60, will take the role Monday, BMW said in a statement.

Wendt’s promotion comes amid reports that boardroom tension has intensified as the company deals with slowing sales momentum and as rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi launch EVs to challenge Tesla.

On Tuesday, BMW issued a profit warning, blaming trade tensions and new emissions rules in Europe.

Leadership tensions have intensified amid a prolonged period of lackluster sales under CEO Harald Krueger, a BMW veteran at the helm for the past three years, company sources told Bloomberg. They asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.

The company has gone from a leader to laggard on EVs and in 2016 lost its global luxury-sales crown to Mercedes. Moving early among major carmakers with the electric i3 in 2013, BMW won’t match a new generation of Mercedes and Audi battery-powered crossovers unveiled this year until 2020.

At next week’s Paris auto show, the carmaker will present the revamped 3-series sedan, a bread-and-butter vehicle that is among its biggest sellers by volume.

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BMW’s top management has been thinned after the surprise departure of Duesmann to VW Group, where he is being lined up to head Audi. Duesmann was a strong candidate to replace Klaus Froehlich, 58, as development chief, once Froehlich reaches BMW’s age limit in two years, a source told Bloomberg. Duesmann was also a potential eventual successor to Krueger.

The loss of Duesmann, after former BMW executive Herbert Diess became the VW brand’s CEO in 2015, irked  BMW Chairman Norbert Reithofer and Deputy Chairman Stefan Quandt, who holds a 26 percent stake in the automaker.

As a result, Duesmann is unlikely to be released early from noncompete provisions of his contract, sources said. Such a move would prevent Duesmann from working for VW for two years.

Spokesmen for the executives declined to comment.

Sales shake-up

BMW has set up a special working group to help new sales head Pieter Nota get on solid footing. And Krueger is considering a broader shake-up of the company’s sales group, according to people familiar with BMW’s strategy.

Nota joined BMW from consumer-electronics giant Royal Philips last year, a rare top hire from outside the company that signaled a desire for fresh expertise. BMW’s global sales grew 4.2 percent in 2017 but growth has been reduced by more than half this year through August. Nota has started working with CFO Nicolas Peter and Krueger to come up with new strategies.

BMW is also considering whether to bundle group sales in one management-board position again, after creating a dual structure that splits responsibilities. While Nota leads sales for BMW’s namesake brand, Peter Schwarzenbauer has oversight of all operations including sales for Rolls-Royce ultraluxury vehicles, Mini city cars and motorcycle nameplates.

A BMW spokesman declined to comment on board discussions or on any potential overhaul in the company’s sales organization.

Tariffs threat

BMW and its rivals face growing challenges to their supply networks from the U.S.’s threat to impose tariffs on European imports and the possibility of the U.K. leaving the E.U. in March without a trade agreement. “The ongoing internationalization of our business and growing volatility greatly increase the level of complexity and demand even greater flexibility from our supplier network and purchasing division,” Reithofer said in the statement.

Wendt’s focus on innovation throughout his career and his expertise in managing quality and complexity puts the purchasing division in an “excellent position to meet all these demands,” Reithofer said.

Wendt has been in charge of BMW’s largest German plant in Dingolfing since early 2017. Before that, he managed the automaker’s factory in Regensburg, Germany, for eight years.

A mechanical engineer, Wendt began his career at BMW in 2002, as head of strategy development production.

In the past, BMW has usually applied an age limit of 60 years for management board positions and only allowed executives to stay on for longer in exceptional cases.

Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report.


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