BMW is set to appoint Oliver Zipse as its new CEO after current chief Harald Krueger said he wouldn’t be available for a second term for the position.
The German automaker will leverage Zipse’s acumen in manufacturing to help make the shift to electric and autonomous cars, tackling new competition from technology giants. The company’s supervisory board will discuss new leadership at BMW’s US plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina later today.
Zipse, 55, is the favourite for the CEO position, with 59-year-old Kalus Froehlich, board member for research, also in contention according to company sources. Oliver Zipse joined BMW as a trainee in 1991. Rising through the ranks steadily, he held crucial posts including head of brand and product strategies, before becoming board member for production.
Oliver Zipse is currently the board member for production at BMW AG.
Zipse expanded BMW’s efficient production network in China, Hungary, and the United States, helping the firm deliver industry-leading profit margins despite its relatively small scale of production. However, experts assert that auto industry leaders need other skills for the new era of software-intensive EVs and AVs.
“A CEO needs to have an idea for how mobility will evolve in future. This goes far beyond optimising an existing business,” said Carsten Breitfeld, chief executive of China-based ICONIQ motors, and a former BMW engineer.
“He needs to be able to build teams, to attract key talent, and to promote a culture which is increasingly oriented along consumer electronics and internet dynamics.” Apart from that Breitfeld also said that being able to cope with shorter product cycles and new technologies, and a willingness to take bold decisions are among the qualities needed for such demanding positions.
The appointment decision was floated after current CEO Harald Krueger stated that he wouldn't be available for a second term for the position.
The need for these attributes couldn’t come at a more important time. BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz had the high-performance limousine market for decades on end, but it is being thrown open to new players with the more sophisticated tech to offer. BMW had an early lead in this regard, but took a breather on its expansion of new car tech after the i3 failed to take off as expected.
In an era where firms like Amazon, Google, and Apple are muscling into the automotive sector, Zipse has a monumental challenge laid out in front of him. The deliverables are huge if BMW does not want to limit itself to the role of hardware provider for newbie yet tech-savvy players in the automotive industry. The call to move up the food chain into data and software is stronger than ever, and time will tell if Oliver Zipse would answer it.