Wolfgang Reitzle, the man who twice missed his shot at the top job atAG, is going to get his chance at a little revenge.
Late last month Mr. Reitzle, 49, who as the head of product development and marketing was seen by many as the very heart and soul of, was tapped by Motor Co. Chief Executive Jac Nasser to head up the newly created Premier Automotive Group. He'll oversee all of Ford's luxury brands, including Lincoln, Jaguar, Volvo and and serve as chairman of Jaguar and Volvo.
Former Jaguar Chairman Nick Scheele will move toof Europe to head marketing, sales and service under President Jim Donaldson. It is less clear what will happen to Tuve Johannesson, but for now he remains as Volvo Car president.
Mr. Reitzle resigned from BMW in February after German labor unions failed to back his nomination for chairman. He reportedly first sought a position with DaimlerChrysler AG, but was told by his mountain-climbing partner, DC Co-Chairman Juergen Schrempp, there was no room for him near the top.
The move to Ford gives Mr. Nasser, who calls Mr. Reitzle "a tremendous executive," a buffer from the day-to-day workings of the luxury car operations. It also provides a common reporting link under Mr. Reitzle, whose engineering genius and brand sensibilities likely will be put to good use increasing platform commonality while preserving individual marque distinctions. Platform and component sharing among the four high-priced lines shouldn't have as many negative implications with consumers as Jag and Volvo sharing parts with more common Ford vehicles.
Mr. Reitzle now also should have the ammunition to go toe-to-toe with BMW in the marketplace.
"Reitzle still has a lot to offer," says Karl Ludvigsen, U.K.-based automotive consultant and publisher. "(Having him oversee Volvo is) fantastic. Volvo has the potential to be there with BMW."
The future appears less certain for Bernd Pischetsrieder, 50, who lost his job as BMW CEO when shareholders lost patience with his Rover strategy. Some observers believe Mr. Pischetsrieder, who grew up near BMW's Munich headquarters, went to work for the automaker as a logistics planner right out of school and rose through its manufacturing ranks, will land at a medium-sized German supplier, a route other top auto executives have followed worldwide. Others believe he'll exit the auto industry altogether.
While Mr. Reitzle was sought after, Mr. "Pischetsrieder's future is not so clear," says the chief executive at one large European supplier.
Also up for debate is whether the exit of Messrs. Pischetsrieder and Reitzle could be the start of a brain drain at BMW.
Mr. Ludvigsen believes the departure of the company's top two executives could have the opposite effect, reinvigorating management and bringing new ideas to BMW. In particular he points to Carl-Peter Forster, who replaced new Chairman Joachim Milberg as head of production. "A lot of people think he's very good, that he could be a star of the next generation of management," Mr. Ludvigsen says.
But others are less certain.
"It's a fact that the new management does not have the same enthusiasm for vehicles," says Philippe Houchois, senior analyst for Standard & Poor's DRI in London.
Says one industry insider: "If I were the Quandts (the family that owns roughly 45% of BMW stock), I'd be worried about the future."