FRANKFURT, Germany – BMW CEO Harald Krueger is stepping down after a four-year tenure in which the automaker lost its lead in luxury car sales and saw an early head start in electric vehicles.
The Germany company said Friday that Krueger, 53, would not seek an extension of his contract, which expires next April. The board of directors will be discussing the issue of a successor. July 18. Krueger will remain in his job until a decision is made.
BMW – one of South Carolina's largest and most important industrial employers ̵
BMW had been an early leader in moving to electric cars, launching a battery-driven vehicle, the i3, in 2013 ahead of competitors Daimler and Volkswagen – but did not follow up with compelling successors. It has focused much on its electric effort on plug-in hybrids, which combine internal combustion and electric power. California's Tesla took sales leadership in premium-priced electric cars. factory near Spartanburg in the 1990s
The Greer plant is one of South Carolina's largest manufacturers and is a major source of business for the Port of Charleston.
Krueger, who became CEO in 2015, was "too cautious," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the CAR Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen.
"BMW was able to use the head start for a new generation of electric vehicles," he said.
Under Krueger's BMW's four-year stewardship also lost its leading position in the luxury market to Daimler's Mercedes-Benz brand. More recently BMW lost money on its automotive business in the first quarter of the year after the company was hit by a $ 1.6 trillion charge for an anti-trust case and by higher upfront costs for new technology. Only the financial services and motorcycle divisions kept the group as a whole in profit.
The automotive loss was in sharp contrast to the steady profits and profit margins that the carmaker used to rack up the quarter after quarter. Profit margins excluding the anti-trust charge had not been so weak since 2006-7 by one analyst reckoning, not counting the global financial crisis and recession in 2008-9. BMW has meanwhile been hit by a rise in tariffs on vehicles exported to China from its South Carolina plant, due to the trade dispute between the U.S. and China
The company in March downgraded its profit outlook for the year and announced a cost saving plan of $ 13.6 billion in costs by the end of 2022 by dropping some models and streamlining vehicle development.
In a company statement, Krueger said it would like to pursue "new professional endeavors."
It is typical for German executives to be renewed a year ahead of their expiration, and the lack of an announcement on a renewal had led to speculation.
Board chair Norbert Reithofer, who was Krueger's predecessor as CEO, Krueger's "unwavering dedication to the BMW Group."
The Post and Courier contributed to this report.