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Why BMW's New CEO Is The Right Guy For The Job

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Failure is not an option.

BMW is currently undergoing a leadership change. Harald Krueger is out as CEO and former head of production Oliver Zipse is his replacement. Krueger's tenure was not renewed by the BMW board of management for one key reason: he failed to continue BMW's momentum in the realm of electrified technologies following the launch of the i3 and i8. Both vehicles were approved by Krueger's predecessor, Dr. Norbert Reithofer. In short, the board felt Krueger squandered an opportunity and competitors such as Mercedes-Benz took advantage. Selecting Krueger's successor had to be done very carefully and Zipse emerged as the winner.

Zipse, 55, has been with the German automaker since 1991 when he started as a trainee. He's a BMW lifer who rose through the ranks. But why him? What makes him right for the top job? Automotive News Europe got the inside word that it's Zipse's "steeliness and conviction" that propelled him to the top.

He's confident, patient, and very persuasive. This will all come in handy as he inherits a company that must navigate through a rapidly changing industry. While Krueger wavered on making big decisions, which was ultimately his undoing, Zipse is more of a man of action. While Krueger signed off on production for the X7 and 8 Series – two vehicles that will generate much-needed cash flow to help fund electric and self-driving tech – it was Zipse as head of production who made sure they were launched on schedule.

Zipse will also have to contend with various trade tensions, specifically Brexit and the US-China tariff dispute. During BMW's annual presentation results last March, Zipse was unfazed by Brexit. The BMW board took notice.

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"With Oliver Zipse, a decisive strategic and analytical leader will" become CEO, Chairman Norbert Reithofer said. "He will provide the BMW Group with fresh momentum in shaping the mobility of the future." Reithofer also previously served as head of production, like Zipse, prior to his highly successful CEO tenure. The ultimate question is, however, whether Zipse's proven ability to run manufacturing operations can be applied towards emerging new high-tech and new customer habits. We're about to find out.

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