Musical Chairs Continues

Whew! Being the reporter responsible for keeping up with executive moves in the auto industry used to be less challenging than repairing Maytags. Now you've got to be on your toes. As we noted in our May issue (see p. 58) senior executives are jumping ship and moving to competitors with unprecedented frequency. Here's an update:

General Motors Corp.'s Michael J. O'Malley launches a flurry of new job changes in late April by giving up the top job at Cadillac — once one of the most coveted slots in Detroit — to head up the Ford account at ad agency J. Walter Thomson. GM then turns around and hires Mark LaNeve, president of Ford Motor Co. subsidiary Volvo Cars of North America, to take over Mr. O'Malley's post. Stunned by Mr. LaNeve's departure, Volvo Cars Co. says Veteran Volvo Executive Dan Werbin will become president and chief executive of VCNA on Jan. 1, 2002. Mr. Werbin can't take the job immediately because of some complicated transition issues, so Victor Doolan, former president of BMW of North America Inc. and current executive director of Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group, will act as interim chief of VCNA until year's end.

Internationally, numerous competitors are picking up BMW's executives. Porsche AG has recruited BMW's Wolfgang Durheimer as head of research and development and Hans Riedel as head of marketing. Audi AG is recruiting BMW's Werner Mischke as its technical development chief.

The Financial Times quotes an unnamed executive as saying: “The company (BMW) itself is unavailable and too expensive in any case for competitors, so they are hiring people who can deliver promising products to the customer.”