(Updates with analyst’s comment in fifth paragraph.)
March 13 (Bloomberg) -- Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s largest maker of luxury cars, plans to hire Peter Schwarzenbauer, the former Audi AG sales chief, as part of an effort to tighten its grip on the premium segment’s top spot, three people familiar with the matter said.
Schwarzenbauer will likely join the Munich, Germany-based company next month and take a top-level management position reporting directly to Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks haven’t been finalized yet.
BMW’s supervisory board will probably discuss the appointment tomorrow, the people said. Bill McAndrews, a BMW spokesman, said the automaker does not comment on “personnel speculation.”
BMW and Audi are battling it out for the top sales position in premium autos, with the BMW brand securing a 407-car lead in the first two months. Schwarzenbauer, Audi’s sales chief for more than four years, led the brand’s expansion by raising its U.S. presence, boosting sales in China and gaining market share in Europe. He left in August as part of a broader management reshuffle by parent Volkswagen AG.
“He’s certainly a distinguished guy and lots speaks for his talent,” said Juergen Pieper, an analyst with Bankhaus Metzler in Frankfurt who recommends selling BMW shares. “Audi was riding a growth wave” during his tenure as sales chief.
In Schwarzenbauer’s first year on the job in 2008, Audi crossed the threshold of 1 million in car sales. The brand’s deliveries rose to a record 1.46 million cars in 2012.
Audi reported 2.77 billion euros (3.61 billion euros) in operating profit and a return on sales of 8.1 percent in the year he joined. Operating profit last year surged to 5.38 billion euros, with an 11 percent operating margin, making Audi one of the world’s most profitable carmakers. Audi CEO Rupert Stadler reiterated yesterday his plan to dethrone BMW from the top spot in deliveries by the end of the decade.
BMW last March appointed Milagros Caina-Andree as its first female management board member, with responsibility for personnel. The appointment expanded the board to eight. Harald Krueger, who was personnel chief, took on a new role overseeing sales and product lines of the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands as well as BMW’s motorcycle unit.
Board members Klaus Draeger and Herbert Diess also swapped jobs as part of the reorganization, with Draeger taking over purchasing and Diess overseeing development.
Schwarzenbauer left Audi, the largest earnings contributor at VW, in the wake of the management revamp. The reshuffle last year also triggered the departure of VW’s former China chief Karl-Thomas Neumann, who became CEO at General Motors Co.’s Opel unit earlier this month, and Audi’s former head of research and development Michael Dick.
VW CEO Martin Winterkorn told reporters last June during a press conference in Stuttgart that Schwarzenbauer would leave Audi, without elaborating on the reason for his departure.
The 53-year-old auto executive was born in the Bavarian city of Weissenburg, Germany, and went to high school in Munich and Nova Friburgo, Brazil. After studying business administration at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, he joined BMW in 1984 and held several positions within the marketing and sales department.
He left BMW to join Porsche AG in 1994 and became CEO of the Stuttgart, Germany-based sports-car maker’s North American division in 2003. Five years later, he took over the management board position responsible for sales and marketing at Audi.
--Editors: Chad Thomas, Chris Reiter