Burkhard Goeschel had a secret. His special project team was hard at work on the BMW Z3, the hot roadster now made in America. But as the group worked on the convertible, they worked secretly on a derivative. It was an inside project, not an outside one based on marketing studies of customers.
It's not that Goeschel minds talking to customers. As project manager for special vehicles, he talks to BMW customers all the time. He shares their passion for 'perfect handling and brisk performance in a car,' and he regards himself as a good customer, crazy about cars.
'There is more to it than high tech engineering,' says Goeschel. 'You need emotion to develop the right experience of perfect handling and brisk performance. Such aspects can be felt in your stomach, not in your brain.'
Goeschel's love for cars has been a family affair. His father, having worked at Daimler-Benz's aero engine division during the war, decided to leave and join small carmaker Gutbrod. With another great Daimler personality, Hans Scherenberg, Goeschel's father developed the world's first direct fuel-injected two-stroke engine.
'That was a fine and fast piece of engineering,' Goeschel recalls. 'It really made our weekend when we could beat a Mercedes type 170 on the autobahn with our little Gutbrod.'
In 1953, his father returned to Daimler-Benz and became responsible for the winning Mercedes Formula One racing engine. At nine years old, young Burkhard Goeschel played football with Mercedes driver Stirling Moss in the paddock of the Nuerburgring race track.
The family tradition continues.
'Recently, I took a Z3 and asked my son to join me,' he recalls. 'I left a note at home that said: 'We're off to the Dolomites.' We had a wonderful time.'
After a brief spell as a medical student, Goeschel got his mechanical engineering degree in Munich. A career at Daimler-Benz seemed
secure, but in 1978 BMW and Bavaria lured him away.
He managed various projects in BMW's motorcycle department during 1989, which gave him insight into niche product development. 'I outsourced engine development and learned to understand new production processes,' says Goeschel.
His connection with the Z3 came from the motorcycle department. Like other BMW divisions, it was asked to come up with ideas for the project.
'We were second best, but still Dr. Reitzle (product development chief Wolfgang Reitzle) offered me the job as project manager for the Z3. I was not convinced, but since Reitzle gave me only one minute, I
accepted just to be sure not to throw away an opportunity.'
Goeschel has had a lot of international experience, which has helped him understand other cultures.
Italians: 'They are very quality conscious, and absolute motorcycle and car nuts.'
Americans: 'They have a strong industrial tradition and are very cost-conscious.'
British: 'Good engineers, they are very creative and always have the advantage of their global language.'
And BMW? 'This international business has changed our German attitude. We have become less arrogant and are more willing to listen. Americans and Japanese like to work with us because we never gave up our core engineering values.'
Gray-haired Burkhard Goeschel loves the independent spirit of BMW, and the corporate culture that encourages him to take initiatives and try new ideas. The niche models he works on tend to be the result of personal creativity rather than marketing considerations.
That is the case with the radical coupe he and his team developed from the Z3 roadster.
'Already during the initial development stages of the Z3 roadster we played with the idea of a coupe,' says Goeschel. 'We kept it secret until a clay model was ready, and then we informed Dr. Reitzle.
'He was surprised, but he soon liked it. So it has become more or less our own project.'