Ludwig Willisch, the new chief executive officer at BMW of North America since October 1, stated that he can fix the company's bumpy relationships with its retailers in the United States. Willisch had run dealerships for years. He had also worked as a car salesman. Willisch stated that he wants to have "the most satisfied customers and to be the most motivated team" in the segment of luxury vehicles. In order to achieve this, the company must engage dealers in its decisions. Willisch has been in BMW for 15 years, climbing its ranks.
He replaced Jim O'Donnell, who left the company last summer to retire. O'Donnell led BMW of North America through the recession. In order to reduce costs, he lessened incentive spending, slashed the warranty labor reimbursement and cut lease volume. Moreover, he reduced the base dealer margin and made the dealer bonuses more difficult to earn.
These modifications upset dealers who complained about a lack of communication with the factory. The company has ranked close to the bottom in the National Automobile Dealers Association's Dealer Attitude Survey in the latest years. The bi-annual survey measures the satisfaction of the dealers with the policies of their manufacturers, headquarters and field staff, as well as franchise value.
In NADA's winter 2011 attitude survey, BMW and Mini ranked last in terms of dealer engagement. Willisch disclosed that one of his first actions as CEO was calling Damon Shelly, who is the chairman of the BMW National Dealer Forum. He has also met with the BMW and the Mini dealer forums. In addition, he visited local dealers while he was on the road. [source: Autonews]