LONDON - Wolfgang Reitzle wasted no time in surveying his new luxury-car empire within Ford Motor Co. last week.
The 50-year-old former BMW AG executive met with his 12-man executive team during an introductory visit to Jaguar Cars Ltd.'s factory in Brown's Lane, England, early last week. He was scheduled to call on Volvo Car Corp. in Gothenburg, Sweden, later in the week.
The new Ford luxury grouping, called Premier Automotive Group, also includes Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. and Lincoln. Reitzle is group vice president of Premier and also chairman of Jaguar and Volvo. Current Lincoln and Aston Martin chiefs Mark Hutchins and Bob Dover will continue to head their organizations while reporting to Reitzle.
Initially, Reitzle will work primarily out of Jaguar headquarters in Coventry, England, while an office in central London is being set up. He will begin his duties officially April 12 after taking a one-week post-Easter vacation.
Reitzle told Jaguar officials he will be spending one week each month at Jaguar. Jaguar insiders said they were pleasantly surprised by the visit.
'He was at pains to show us how much he believes in our heritage and how much he wants to grow the business,' said a Jaguar board member who declined to be identified. 'He's highly motivated, and told us he intends to spend the rest of his life making great Jaguars.'
Reitzle told the officials being part of Premier Automotive Group would help Jaguar make the most of its potential with the current launch of the S-Type and the development of the X400 'baby Jaguar,' which will be built at Ford's Halewood plant in northwestern England.
'We've spent years benchmarking the (BMW) 5 series and 3 series as part of our plans for the future, and now the architect of those cars is at our helm,' said the Jaguar board member. 'I think we're in for an exciting time.
'His abilities as a marketing strategist should be a great asset as we attempt to quadruple our annual sales to 200,000 over the next three years,' he said.
Reitzle replaces Nick Scheele as Jaguar chairman. Mike Beasley, a manufacturing executive, becomes executive director of Jaguar. He will report to Reitzle.
Scheele, who moves to Cologne, Germany, as Ford of Europe's vice president of marketing, sales and service, credited Beasley with playing a key role in the quality renaissance at Jaguar.