LONDON - Initial reaction to the appointment of Werner Saemann to replace Walter Hasselkus as chairman and chief executive of Rover Group last week was: 'Werner who?'
To Saemann, 56, an engineer by trade, falls the challenging task of bringing world-class efficiency to Rover's aging, inefficient manufacturing plants in the UK.
Associates say Saemann, previously head of engine and suspension of the BMW Group in Munich, is the perfect man for the job. They say he is strong in the areas of industrial planning and engineering, precisely where Rover needs help the most.
His background is in sharp contrast to the man he replaces, Walter Hasselkus, who is a lawyer by training.
Saemann is known as a man who does not speak too much. Once he makes up his mind, he makes decisions quickly and can be tough when necessary.
His only prior work experience outside Germany was in 1990-91, when he was chairman at BMW Motoren GmbH in Steyr, Austria.
From the moment they acquired Rover in January, 1994, BMW officials maintained they would appoint only British executives to run Rover.
That pretense is gone completely now, but it began to slip anyway on 1 September, 1996, when Hasselkus arrived to take the top Rover job. Hasselkus, a German who charmed the British press during his tenure, had served as president of BMW's British importer, and, like BMW Chairman Berndt Pischetsrieder, was known as an Anglophile.