LONDON - Initial reaction to the appointment of Werner Saemann to replace Walter Hasselkus as chairman and chief executive of Rover Group last week was: 'Werner who?'
To Saemann, 56, an engineer by trade, falls the challenging task of bringing efficiency to Rover's aging, inefficient manufacturing plants in the United Kingdom.
Associates say Saemann, previously head of engine and suspension of the BMW Group in Munich, is strong in industrial planning and engineering - the areas where Rover needs help the most.
His background is in sharp contrast to the man he replaces, Hasselkus, a lawyer by training. Saemann is known as a man who does not speak too much. Once he makes up his mind, he makes decisions quickly and can be tough when necessary.
His only prior work experience outside Germany was in 1990 and 1991, when he was chairman at BMW Motoren GmbH in Steyr, Austria.
From the moment they acquired Rover in 1994, BMW officials maintained they would appoint only British executives to run Rover. That pretense, now gone, began to slip Sept. 1, 1996, when Hasselkus, a German Anglophile who charmed the British press, arrived to take the top Rover job.