WOODCLIFF LAKE, New Jersey, USA - To help push through major changes in his organization over the next few years, BMW's top American official has decided to keep another title.
Tom Purves, chairman and chief executive of BMW (US) Holding Corp., will also be president of BMW of North America Inc. He had held that title on an interim basis after BMW veteran Vic Doolan left last month to join Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group.
'When things are good - like they are now - it's tougher to get people to accept the need for change. When things are really difficult, it's easy,' Purves said.
Purves, 50, is Scottish. As head of the holding company, he is in charge of sales, marketing and distribution for BMW and Land Rover brands in North America, plus Central and South America.
Doolan, 58, led BMW sales in North America for a highly successful six years. 'When Vic departed, I took a long, hard look at how we want to conduct our business in the future, and I decided it is appropriate that I take that role (president) for the time being,' Purves said in an interview at US headquarters here.
BMW and Land Rover are both enjoying record US sales. Both have enviable brand images. Presumably, both are highly profitable, even though parent BMW AG in Germany does not break out profits for individual markets.
Yet, according to Purves, the US subsidiaries have an urgent need to change, for these reasons:
To save costs, by combining back-shop BMW and Land Rover operations.
To reintroduce passenger car brands from the UK, starting with the Mini. Purves said a decision is due by early 2000, whether to import the Mini and how to do so.
To boost US sales volume by expanding the present network and adding new dealers. Dealers who already have BMW or Land Rover franchises will have first claim on new brands and new markets.
'We are in a major state of transition,' Purves said. 'There is no final decision on Mini for the USA - but we will decide by the first quarter of next year.
'Mini could be the first entry (of a lineup of) Rover vehicles. There's a high residual knowledge for MG in the USA.' Purves said BMW would probably introduce Rover Group passenger cars piecemeal.
To save costs, parent BMW AG is integrating its BMW operations with its Rover Group subsidiary. BMW bought Rover in late 1994, but until recent months, Rover kept most of its independence.
That cost former chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder his job earlier this year, when Rover's continuing losses turned out to be worse than expected.
'The task right now is to quickly integrate more aspects of the business, so that we can get the benefits of bigger economies of scale, to bring to bear higher levels of efficiency through greater similarity within the organization, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the brands,' Purves said.
Before his present jobs, Purves was the Rover board member in charge of worldwide sales and marketing for Land Rover, Mini, MG and Rover brands. He joined BMW AG in 1985 as sales director of BMW (GB) Ltd.
In the future, BMW and Rover will share almost everything, from development work to engines to distribution to parts and service. For instance, Purves said that future BMW Group models will share the same basic electronics. That makes them cheaper to build and also means the same computer diagnostic tool will be able to identify problems in a Mini, a BMW or a Land Rover. About the only thing the different brands will not share is the face they present to the customer.
All that goes for BMW of North America and Land Rover North America, too. This year, the partners already have combined such departments as legal, finance, human resources and computer services. They are merging North American engineering and emissions testing. They already share port facilities.