Ludwig Willisch will take over as CEO of BMW of North America on Oct. 1

Article by Christian Andrei, on July 22, 2011

Starting October 1, the new CEO of BMW of North America will be veteran executive Ludwig Willisch, as current CEO Jim O'Donnell is set to retire. Willisch has headed BMW’s sales operations in Europe and Japan.

O'Donnell, who comes from Scotland, has been CEO since July 2008. On Sept. 1, Willisch will arrive in the U.S. and will work alongside O'Donnell during a transition period of one month.

Willisch served as the head of BMW Group's European sales outside of Germany since May 2009. He had also served as the president of BMW M GmbH, the brand's performance division, in Munich.

It was in 1996 that he started working for BMW as the head of the sales office in Duesseldorf, Germany. He was later assigned to lead the sales subsidiaries in Germany, Japan and Sweden. O'Donnell, BMW's top executive in the United Kingdom from 2000 until he was named CEO, leaves BMW in a good shape in the U.S.

In June, BMW outsold Mercedes-Benz to widen its lead as the best-selling brand this year. BMW has gotten back on track to sell more vehicles than Lexus in the U.S. for the first time since 1997.

From January to June 2011, BMW's sales increased by 13% to 113,705, while Mercedes grew by 7% to 110,926 and Lexus dropped 18% to 88,010.

Last month, O’Donnell said that Lexus is “too far behind” and isn’t expected to get the No. 2 spot. In 2010, BMW Group sales, including Mini, increased by 10% to 266,269, while BMW-brand sales climbed by 12% to 220,113.

Press Release

Willisch new president of BMW of North America

Ludwig Willisch (55), currently responsible for the BMW Group’s European sales region, will take over from Jim O’Donnell (61) as president of BMW of North America, effective October 1st, 2011. Willisch, who holds a degree in economics, began his career with the BMW Group in 1996 as manager of the BMW branch in Düsseldorf. He gained further national and international sales experience as head of the local sales subsidiaries in Germany, Japan and Sweden. Prior to assuming his current position as head of European sales, Willisch was president of BMW M GmbH.

O’Donnell, who has managed the BMW Group’s North American sales since 2008, will be retiring. The BMW Group achieved a substantial increase in sales on the U.S. market in the first half of the year. A total of 143,974 vehicles (+18.1% year-on-year) were sold in the U.S. through June, making the region the BMW Group’s second-largest market in the first half of 2011. Last year, the company delivered 266,580 automobiles to U.S. customers – an increase of 10.1%.

Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management, responsible for Sales and Marketing at BMW AG: “I would like to thank Jim O’Donnell for his tireless commitment during his successful career. I would also like to wish Ludwig Willisch every success. With his many years of solid experience in the automobile business, I am confident that he will maintain our successful course in the U.S. in the future.”

A successor to Willisch for the BMW Group’s European sales region will be announced at a later date.

Topics: bmw, ceo

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