MUNICH -- BMW CEO Harald Krueger’s job is hanging in the balance as the automaker steers through a fundamental shift toward electric and autonomous vehicles as well as weakening markets, people familiar with the discussions said.
Some supervisory board members are raising questions over whether he’s the right choice to lead the company and will discuss Krueger’s second-term prospects in the coming weeks, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential deliberations. Krueger’s current tenure ends next May, with an announcement on his future due in June or July.
BMW, like other automakers, is navigating a costly transition not only to electric cars but also new business models and deep-pocketed tech competitors encroaching via new mobility options such as ride hailing. After leading the luxury competition for a decade, BMW’s momentum petered out in 2016 and the automaker has since struggled to regain the top spot with cautious model redesigns. Since last year, weaker global markets and trade tensions have shrunk profits.
Any new CEO will be chosen from inside the Munich-based automaker, and production head Oliver Zipse, 55, is considered a possible successor, one of the people said. A BMW spokesman declined to comment on CEO succession plans.
"There are doubts about Kreuger's perspectives as CEO of BMW -- internally and externally,'' Juergen Pieper, an analyst at Metzler Bank, said in an email. "Results of the past four years are mixed, profitability is turning down quite substantially," and "there are no clear strategic signals.''
Krueger, 53, has been at the helm since 2015, when he became the youngest leader of a major automaker with a brief to tackle the industry’s transition. He is struggling to stamp his authority on a divided management board that’s failing to unite on plans for partnerships and spending on new technology, said the people.
While merging its short-term-rental business with Daimler last year, BMW has not so far aligned itself with new competitors. Daimler, Toyota and Volvo, meanwhile, have forged deals with Uber, and Jaguar Land Rover will develop self-driving electric cars with Google affiliate Waymo.
Efforts to deepen ties with Daimler have met resistance from some board members who are wary of new partnerships, the people said.
The last BMW CEO to leave after just a single term was Helmut Panke, who vacated the top position at BMW in 2006, a day before turning 60, at the time the proclaimed age limit for executives at the company. BMW’s largest shareholder are the Klatten-Quandt siblings, which together hold about 45 percent of the shares.
Krueger has struggled to emancipate himself from predecessor and now Chairman Norbert Reithofer, who is credited with taking some bold steps, like adding a range of crossovers at a time when other luxury automakers skipped the segment.