Four years ago, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer gave his purchasing chief, Herbert Diess, a very challenging task: Reduce material costs by 4 billion euros by 2012.
Not only did Diess deliver, he completed the mission more than a year ahead of schedule despite massive volatility in the price of raw materials. He also achieved the goal without sacrificing quality or compromising BMW's reputation for engineering innovation.
On the contrary, the German premium manufacturer recently presented new cars such as the BMW 5 series, which has a big sales lead in Europe over rivals such as the Mercedes E class and Audi A6.
Diess also faced the challenge of securing a consistent supply of advanced technology for BMW's new i subbrand of electric cars without breaking the budget.
The battery-powered cars, which will debut in 2013 starting with the i3 minicar, will rely heavily on innovative but expensive materials such as carbon fiber.
Diess knows his priorities: "We do not differentiate our product from the competition by the cheapest part but by the best and most innovative," he said.
Diess, who also won the purchasing executive Eurostar in 2008, has a doctorate degree in engineering from the Technical University Munich. He started his automotive career at Robert Bosch in 1989, rising to head of technology at the supplier's plant in Treto, Spain, in 1993.
He joined BMW in 1996 as director of long-term and structural planning. Diess was director of BMW's plant in Birmingham, England, for a year and boss at its Oxford, England, factory from 2000-2003. He joined the BMW board in in October 2007.