SPARTANBURG, South Carolina - The head of BMW's US assembly plant has suddenly retired at age 57.
Al Kinzer, president of BMW Manufacturing Corp., left his job at the end of last month.
His job has been taken by Norbert Reithofer, who was named chief operating officer of the company last fall.
Kinzer recently confided to colleagues that he felt he had had enough of startup projects, especially if they meant constant travel. BMW is preparing to open two new engine plants, at Hams Hall, UK, and Curitiba, Brazil.
Kinzer is one of the few senior BMW executives to have managed a plant startup.
He oversaw the creation of BMW Manufacturing Corp., beginning in 1992. It was BMW's first full manufacturing plant outside Germany.
It was just one of a long series of startups for Kinzer, who was also the first US manager of a Japanese transplant factory.
Kinzer played the key role in launching Honda's original motorcycle plant in Marysville, Ohio, in 1978. He was also centrally involved in setting up Honda's first US auto plant in 1982, and again in 1989 when he helped open Honda's East Liberty, Ohio, Civic plant.
BMW persuaded Kinzer to join the company in 1989.
Kinzer recruited a management team from Honda and other Japanese and US carmakers, as well as from BMW in Germany. He borrowed heavily from Japanese lean-manufacturing philosophies to organize BMW's plant and to train its inexperienced South Carolina workforce.
Kinzer will remain on BMW Manufacturing Corp.'s board of directors, but he will also work as a consultant to supplier companies.
Reithofer, 41, came to South Carolina last October to handle the day-to-day operations while Kinzer travelled. Reithofer was previously managing director of BMW's South African plant, a former kit factory that is now being expanded as a full manufacturing plant.