Ford Motor Co., eager to improve its brands and products globally, has hired one of the auto industry's leading brand and product developers to head its luxury vehicle operations.
Wolfgang Reitzle, 50, brings to Ford a glittering reputation. Although he never reached the pinnacle at BMW AG, his name became synonymous with that of the Munich-based maker of luxury cars.
His energy will give Ford a shot in the arm. But his dynamic - and sometimes imperious - personality means Ford must make room for another high-profile executive near the top.
Under Reitzle's zealous product-development regime, BMW became famous for the purity of its products. With their combination of agile handling, superb road manners and engine refinement, BMW cars became global icons of baby boomers.
Reitzle inspires strong feelings among colleagues. Insiders say he was a polarizing influence at BMW, inspiring either intense loyalty or animosity.
Despite his charm and keen ambition, Reitzle has not been able to chart a successful course to the top, much like another product visionary, Vice Chairman Robert Lutz of the former Chrysler Corp.
Reitzle's inability to gain the support of BMW's powerful labor unions cost him a shot at the BMW chairmanship when Bernd Pischetsrieder was forced to resign in a Feb. 5 boardroom upheaval.
A native of Bavaria in Germany, Reitzle was bred to be a top BMW executive.
He was educated at Munich Technical University, the training ground for most of BMW's top engineers and executives.
He joined the company in 1976 as a young engineer specializing in production technology and became chairman of BMW's research and development division in 1983. He attended the advanced management program at Harvard University in 1984 and became general manager of BMW AG in 1985.
But Reitzle was impatient to be boss of a car company, and in 1993, he thought he had his golden opportunity.
Porsche AG offered him the top job with a blank check to make whatever changes he felt were needed. But BMW patriarch Eberhard von Kuenheim refused to release Reitzle from his contract.
So Reitzle soldiered on at BMW. In 1998, BMW added marketing to his list of responsibilities.
Reitzle is an avid and accomplished golfer. Lately he has been seen around Munich in the company of Nina Ruge, a high-profile German television magazine reporter.
When asked five years ago what he would want to do if he ever left BMW, Reitzle answered that he would like to be head of his own company.
That position has eluded him. But as head of Ford's new Premier Automotive Group, with a mission to reach 1 million sales a year, Reitzle may have achieved the next best thing.