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.