FRANKFURT (Reuters) – BMW’s <BMWG.DE> board member for production Oliver Zipse is the front runner to become the carmaker’s new chief executive, sources said on Friday, after Harald Krueger announced he would not stay on beyond April 2020.
Krueger said earlier on Friday has would not seek a potential extension of his contract, pre-empting deliberations about whether to give him another five-year term.
BMW declined to comment on whether Zipse would be appointed chief executive, saying this would be formally decided on July 18 when the full supervisory board is due to meet.
Zipse, 55, is the youngest among three potential successors, who include 59-year-old R&D chief Klaus Froehlich and 57-year-old Chief Financial Officer Nicolas Peter. BMW has an age limit of 60 for board members.
Zipse has held the post of head of production like other BMW chief executives, including Krueger and BMW’s supervisory board chairman Norbert Reithofer, one of the sources said. BMW has a track record of delivering industry-leading profit margins despite its small scale, thanks to efficient production methods.
“The CEO candidate will not be a surprise,” one of the sources said.
Krueger said he wanted to move on to new projects.
“After more than ten years in the Board of Management, more than four of which as the CEO of the BMW Group, I would like to pursue new professional endeavours and leverage my diverse international experience for new projects and ventures,” Krueger said in a statement.
Under Krueger’s leadership, BMW lost the title of best-selling luxury carmaking brand to Mercedes-Benz in 2016, and put the brakes on a plan to mass produce carbon-fibre based electric cars at a time when zero-emission vehicles made by Tesla <TSLA.O> were gaining traction with customers.
Krueger was hastily installed as CEO designate in December 2014 and formally took office in May 2015 following the defection of fellow BMW board member Herbert Diess to rival Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE>.
Krueger, who is 53, has avoided high-profile appearances in front of large crowds since he collapsed on stage during his first major news conference as CEO during the Frankfurt car show in September 2015.
At BMW’s annual results news conference earlier this year, the company sidestepped questions about whether Krueger would receive a contract extension. BMW spokesman Maximilian Schoeberl at the time said succession was “not a topic” being discussed.
(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Michelle Martin/Georgina Prodhan/Keith Weir/Jane Merriman)