MUNICH - BMW has given its long-time product development czar Wolfgang Reitzle power to sell cars as well as to design and develop them.
BMW calls the new area 'market and product.' Reitzle, 48, retains his responsibility for product design and development, and material purchasing on the management board. He adds sales and marketing. The change takes effect 1 March.
At the same time, product engineering and manufacturing will be combined in a task area called 'engineering and production.' Joachim Milberg, 54, board member and head of production, will be in charge of that area.
'The aim is to increase the sensitivity to markets, bring BMW closer to their customers and to increase efficiency,' said spokesman Richard Gaul.
BMW said the process-oriented restructuring is unprecedented in the auto industry, although PSA/Peugeot-Citroen is going in the same direction with a new structure that gives brand managers control over product design.
Until now, responsibility for sales and marketing was shared by the entire BMW board. Product engineering, which now reports to Milberg, had formerly been part of Reitzle's area.
Reitzle retains purchasing because suppliers are heavily involved in product development, and because sometimes suppliers compete with BMW in-house capacity.
BMW has had some experience in combining traditional areas.
Gaul said BMW began moving in this direction more than 10 years ago with its FIZ, a center for research and engineering. Both Reitzle and Milberg have offices at FIZ and at company headquarters.
'The organizational connection of the sales functions with the conception of new products establishes a basis for strenghtening our lead,' said BMW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder. 'The process orientation in engineering will make us faster and more efficient.'
Spokesman Walter Glogauer said 'faster' means product development times will be cut from the three years spent on the new 7 series.
'To be fast is one goal,' said Glogauer. 'The highest goal, though, is quality.'
Glogauer said there will be no change in daily practices or the strong culture of teams at BMW.
He said only the distribution of responsibilities has changed. Both task areas have members on the product teams that develop new cars.
In 1997 BMW sold about 675,000 cars, up 5 percent from 1996.