BMW set to hire former Audi sales chief Schwarzenbauer
Schwarzenbauer increased Audi's presence in the U.S.
FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) -- BMW plans to hire Peter Schwarzenbauer, the former Audi sales chief, as part of an effort to tighten its grip on the premium segment's top spot, sources told Bloomberg News.
Schwarzenbauer will likely join BMW next month and take a top-level management position reporting directly to CEO Norbert Reithofer, three people familiar with the matter said. They asked not to be identified because the talks haven't been finalized yet.
Schwarzenbauer, who ran Audi's sales and marketing for more than four years, led Audi's global expansion by increasing the brand's presence in the United States, boosting sales volumes in China and gaining market share across Europe while maintaining profitability.
He left last August as part of a broader reshuffling of management by parent Volkswagen Group. Luca de Meo, a former chief marketing officer with Fiat, then took the top sales post at Audi.
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.
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.
Former Porsche U.S. boss
Schwarzenbauer, 53, 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 in 1994 and became CEO of the 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.
BMW and Audi are battling it out this year for the top sales position in premium autos, with the BMW brand securing a 407-car lead in the first two months of the year.
BMW's supervisory board will probably discuss the appointment on Thursday, sources said. Bill McAndrews, a BMW spokesman, said the automaker does not comment on "personnel speculation."Contact Automotive News