Bentley appoints Wolfgang Dürheimer as its new Chairman and Chief Executive

Article by Christian Andrei, on November 29, 2010

In 2011, Wolfgang Durheimer took on the helm of Bentley Motors after the retirement of Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen, the 8-year CEO and Chairman of the firm. Paefgen will continue to work in the Volkswagen Group as an adviser to Durheimer. Before becoming the CEO of Bentley Motors, Mr. Durheimer was employed by Porsche AG as its Executive VP for Research and Development.

When asked about his new position in Bentley, the 52-year-old Durheimer described it as a “significant responsibility.” The new Bentley CEO acknowledged that he had a lot to learn about what he described as a company with an “illustrious history” and an excellent track record in developing groundbreaking and innovative vehicles.

While flattered by the appointment, Durheimer expressed confidence that he can put his experience at Porsche to good use in his new job as CEO of Bentley Motors. Volkswagen AG’s Board of Management Chairman Dr. Martin Winterkorn also expressed confidence that Durheimer’s expertise that he gained in Porsche will be a big help to keeping Bugatti and Bentley in the lead in the luxury vehicle market.

Wolfgang Durheimer started out in BMW in 1986. He served in various positions in BMW’s motorcycle arm. His early experiences included being a product manager and later on Product Development chief, and eventually in R&D and project management as a senior manager. After 13 years in BMW, Durheimer became the overseer for the 911 product line in Porsche. 2 years later, he served as Board Member for Research and Development and Product Management.

Durheimer was directly responsible for the development of several vehicles that cemented Porsche’s success in its market. He will be replacing Dr. Paefgen, who is set to retire in May of 2011. Dr. Paefgen ended his 30-year career that was marked by successes during his tenures as Chairman of the Bentley, Bugatti, Audi and Lamborghini brands, with the last 9 years of his career spent as Chairman of Bentley.

Since 2002, Dr. Paefgen led the company when it was finalizing various investments that immediately led to impressive returns for the company. Under Paefgen’s leadership, Bentley finished developed on the Continental GT race car, which gave the company its comeback victory in the Le Mans racetrack. The Continental GT directly contributed to Bentley’s phenomenal growth despite the global economic recession felt in the years following its release.

By 2007, the global demand for the Continental GT has led to a larger workforce and a ten-fold increase in global sales. Paefgan, speaking on his retirement, described his tenure in Bentley as a “privilege.” He also described his time as Chairman of the company as a period of “tremendous success” interspersed with some setbacks.

Paefgen then gave recognition to the efforts of the workforce at the Crewe facility, stating that he “treasure(s) the [efforts] the most.” He then stated that he will be turning Bentley over to the very capable hands of Wolfgang Durheimer.

Press Release

Wolfgang Dürheimer appointed Chairman and Chief Executive

Bentley Motors today announced the appointment of Wolfgang Dürheimer as its new Chairman and Chief Executive. Mr Dürheimer, who joins Bentley from Porsche AG where he was Executive Vice-President, Research and Development, will commence his new role on 1st February 2011. He succeeds Dr Franz-Josef Paefgen who will retire after over eight years at the helm but has agreed to remain in an advisory capacity to Bentley and as a consultant to the Volkswagen Group.

Beginning his career in the motor industry with BMW in 1986, Wolfgang Dürheimer (52) has held positions as a product manager and also Head of Product Development in the motorcycle division. He later became a member of the senior management team responsible for research, development and project management. In 1999, Mr Dürheimer moved to Porsche, taking management responsibility for the iconic 911 product line. Since 2001 he has been a Member of the Board responsible for Research, Development and Product Management. Under his management new models and product lines have been developed which have strengthened the success of the Porsche brand.

Speaking about the appointment, the Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, Professor Dr Martin Winterkorn said: "Wolfgang Dürheimer personifies the outstanding technical competency of Porsche. He will bring this expertise and his experience to Bentley and Bugatti, helping them maintain their leading positions within the luxury segment."

Speaking about his new role, Mr Dürheimer said: "I am flattered by the trust put in me by the Volkswagen Group. To take charge of a Company such as Bentley is a significant responsibility. The Company has such an illustrious history and the developments made over the past few years have been outstanding. I know I have a lot to learn about the Brand and the people but hope my experience with Porsche will serve me well in a new role and a new country."

Dr Paefgen, who reaches the normal retirement age of 65 in May, has been asked to remain involved in the Volkswagen Group and Bentley in particular in an advisory capacity. This reflects Dr Paefgen's undoubted experience within the motor industry during which he has been Chairman of some of the world's most illustrious marques including Bentley and Bugatti but also Audi and Lamborghini. "Over the past 30 years, he has played a key role in corporate development at the helm of a number of Group brands." said Professor Dr Winterkorn.

During his tenure at Bentley, Dr Paefgen has overseen nothing less than the renaissance of the Company. Having joined the Company in 2002, Dr Paefgen oversaw the final stages of Volkswagen's billion pound investment in both the Crewe factory and its R&D facilities. The first fruits of this investment were seen the following year; a victorious return to Le Mans and the launch of the car that transformed the Company's fortunes – the Continental GT. Creating a new market segment, the GT won Bentley new followers across the world, increasing sales ten-fold by 2007 and helping the Company increase its workforce to over 3500. Despite the global economic downturn, Bentley has continued to invest in new products including the new Continental GT which was launched in Paris this year and the flagship Mulsanne, which Dr Paefgen described as containing "everything I know about the creation of cars".

"It has been a privilege to have been a small part of the story of Bentley", said Dr Paefgen. "During my time here we have had some tremendous successes and inevitably faced some real challenges. However, it is the skill, the commitment and the passion of everyone at Crewe that I will treasure the most. In Wolfgang Dürheimer I am convinced we have an individual with a feel for the both the Brand and what makes Bentleys special. The company is in very capable hands."

Wolfgang Dürheimer is a native of Bavaria in Germany and is married with two grown up children. He will commence the leadership of Bentley Motors on 1st February 2011.

Topics: bentley, ceo

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