Industry insiders have often suspected the top job at BMW's Four Cylinder headquarters is cursed -- that is at least, half the time.
Seemingly without exception a failed CEO always follows a successful one. Bernd Pischetsrieder followed Eberhard von Kuenheim, Helmut Panke bowed out after Joachim Milberg and now Harald Krueger with Norbert Reithofer.
On Friday, the 53-year-old informed the supervisory board that he would not seek a second term when his current contract comes to an end after April 2020, citing his intention to pursue "new professional endeavors."
Whether he jumped or he was pushed is at the end of the day irrelevant as his authority had been too heavily undermined by press speculation of his imminent demise as CEO. While the decision ultimately falls to the two Quandt siblings that control. the company, it was clear he no longer enjoyed the confidence of his board room peers and subordinates. He simply lacked the strong leadership character that the company needed at a time when its chief rival, Mercedes was overtaking its seemingly insurmountable lead.
No doubt there were legacy problems as well as timing issues that could speak for a curse, but Krueger is very much responsible for his own failure. Weakness is sadly the first description that likely come to many minds. Who can forget his first major appearance before the world's press as boss, when he collapsed on stage at the Frankfurt auto show in September 2015. Gossip immediately touched off about whether he had hidden deeper health problems, which only served to undermine his authority early on.
The biggest problem in my mind however was that Krueger never appeared to be properly vetted in the run up to his coronation. It seemed the board had already settled on him as a replacement for Reithofer after just four years running personnel in his first major assignment. What followed were two rushed stations as Mini and Rolls-Royce boss as well as head of production for just over two years, almost alibi assignments given the brief duration, before he was appointed in December 2014.
It followed perhaps unsurprisingly that the company scrupulously shielded him from scrutiny in the following months. Few interviews were given as he prepared his much-anticipated March 2016 strategy plan finally presented which I had panned as a copycat strategy of Mercedes minus the EV strategy, with management jargon flung about to make it seem somehow new and improved.
The list of accomplishments he leaves behind is wanting. His biggest was no doubt securing a deal to gain the majority of its lucrative Chinese joint venture with local partner Brilliance, the second biggest merely keeping BMW out of the headlines with the diesel scandal that engulfed Audi and Mercedes.
Yet instead of a bold bet on the future of EVs like Volkswagen and Mercedes, which are developing purpose-built EV architectures in MEB and EVA, he chose a flexible architecture that requires compromises between combustion engine cars and EVs.
His successor, almost certainly production chief Oliver Zipse, will have to think more boldly than Krueger ever did if it ever wants to reclaim the crown from Mercedes again.