BMW Appoints Oliver Zipse as its New CEO as the Carmaker Shifts Focus to Electric & Self-Driving Cars

BMW Appoints Oliver Zipse as its New CEO as the Carmaker Shifts Focus to Electric & Self-Driving Cars

Author: Eric Walz   

German automaker BMW appointed a new CEO, with hopes that he will guide the company's future as it shifts its focus to building more electric models and develop advanced technologies such as autonomous driving.

Oliver Zipse will assume the role of Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG effective on Aug 16, 2019 the German automaker announced today. The company's Supervisory Board made this decision today during its meeting in Spartanburg, South Carolina (USA). where BMW's largest volume assembly factory is located.

Zipse will succeed Harald Krüger who served as BMW's CEO since 2015. Kruger informed the Chairman of the Supervisory Board earlier this month that he would not seek a second term of office which prompted BMW to look for a new CEO. 

Kruger will resign as Chairman and will leave the Board of Management by mutual agreement on Aug 15, 2019. Kruger announced on July 5 that he would not seek a contract extension and would leave his position when his term expires in April 2020. His decision to leave his role comes amid disappointing earnings and dwindling market share at BMW. 

Zipse, a BMW veteran, is being tasked with setting BMW on couse for its future as the auto industry undergoes rapid transfomation.

"With Oliver Zipse, a decisive strategic and analytical leader will assume the Chair of the Board of Management of BMW AG. He will provide the BMW Group with fresh momentum in shaping the mobility of the future," said Dr Nobert Reithofer, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of BMW AG.


Oliver Zipse at BMW's Spartanburg assembly plant. He will assume the role of Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG next month.

Zipse has been a member of the Board of Management of BMW AG since 2015 and is currently responsible for the production division. He began his professional career in the company in 1991 as a trainee and has since held various management positions, including Senior Vice President Corporate Planning and Product Strategy.

Among Zipse's more pressing tasks is picking the manufacturing expert to help lead BMW's shift to electric and self-driving cars and address growing competition from technology giants such as Tesla and Google, as well as fending off a new crop of electric vehicle startups looking to follow Tesla's lead.

BMW had an early lead in premium electric vehicles but scaled back its ambitions after the boxy-looking battery-powered i3 failed to attract buyers, allowing Tesla to overtake BMW in electric car sales with its more technologically advanced electric offerings.

Krueger's reluctance to push low-margin electric vehicles led to an exodus of engineering talent at the automaker, including junior managers like Christian Senger, now Volkswagen's board member responsible for software, and Markus Duesmann, who is seen as a future Audi CEO.

Duesmann and Senger were poached by Volkswagen (VW) CEO Herbert Diess, himself a former BMW board member responsible for research who defected in 2015 to implement a bold 80 billion euros electric car strategy at rival VW.

Zipse will need to ramp up BMW's software expertise as new players like Amazon and Google muscle into the mobility sector with popular in-car infotainment software Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Google is also working with automakers on deals to embed its Android Auto OS during production.

"Production expertise is important, but if you want to avoid ending up being a hardware provider for Google or Apple, you need to have the ability to move up the food chain into data and software," a former BMW board member said to Reuters, declining to be identified.

BMW is on track to double its electric and hybrid vehicle sales by 2021, the company said.

The German automaker announced that it will meet its target of marketing 25 electrified vehicle models by 2023, two yeas ahead of schedule. More than half of those models will be fully electric.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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