BMW needs to adapt its retirement policy to changing times

Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.
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BMW plans to raise the mandatory retirement age for its top management to 62 from 60 but the company isn't going far enough if it wants to keep the expertise of long-serving executives.

BMW is making the change because the company risks losing managers with crucial skills, CEO Norbert Reithofer said on the sidelines of the company's annual press conference earlier this month.

Under the current rule, Reithofer would have to step down in less than four years on his 60th birthday. That surely would not be a good thing for BMW.

When asked if the new rule will apply to him and his management board colleagues, Reithofer said that was a decision for the supervisory board.

BMW needs to move quickly to a retirement age of 65 for its entire top management rather than taking the intermediate step of raising it to 62.

Retiring at 60 should remain an option at but no longer a necessity. Why? If others in the auto industry followed BMW's example we wouldn't have many of the top bosses currently running major carmakers -- managers who have passed their 60th birthdays and are as active as ever.

• Fiat-Chrysler would be without Sergio Marchionne, who would have been forced to retire in June last year after turning 60.

• General Motors would never have had Dan Akerson as its CEO. He replaced Ed Whitacre in September 2010, a month before turning 62.

• Alan Mulally would not have had a chance to reshape Ford. Mulally joined the carmaker in September 2006, one month after turning 61.

• Renault-Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn would have just one year to go until being shown the door.

In the developed world, the average age of the population is increasing and people in their 60s are still very active.

BMW has to accept that times are changing.

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