BMW promotes two European execs to key U.S. roles

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BMW appointed two European executives to key roles in the United States as the company reshuffles its senior management to counter a surge by Mercedes, which is on course to topple the Munich-based automaker as the market's luxury leader.

J. Chris Koenders, 49, who has been president of BMW Group Netherlands since 2010, will succeed Peter Miles as executive vice president of the automaker's North American operations. Koenders, a Dutch national, will be responsible for all BMW sales operations within the United States, BMW said in a statement.

Koenders has worked for BMW for more than 20 years. "Under his leadership, BMW in the Netherlands achieved the No. 1 position in the premium segment for the first time since 1983," the statement said.

Petter Witt, 39, who is currently managing director of BMW Sweden, will head BMW's operations for its western region in the United States, succeeding David Duncan, who will become vice president of Mini operations in the Americas. Duncan succeeds Jim McDowell, who is retiring.

Witt, a Swedish national, has 13 years of automotive experience with BMW in the United States, Germany and Sweden.

BMW of America CEO Ludwig Willisch said the company is intensifying its "customer-driven focus" with the changes, which take effect Jan. 1.

Mercedes brand is seeking to end BMW's two-year reign the leader in annual U.S. luxury-car sales.

Through November, BMW sold 178,512 vehicles in the United States, up 9 percent compared with Mercedes brand's volume of 183,338, up 14 percent, according to data from Automotive News Data Center.

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