LONDON - The Germanization of the British auto industry continues.
Volkswagen AG, owner of Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars Ltd., named several German executives to its top management positions last week in a move VW called 'the end of a period of transition.'
However, the top job at Rolls-Royce and Bentley remains with an Englishman. Tony Gott, 44, a Rolls-Royce career man who had been acting CEO since the end of 1998, now has been confirmed as CEO effective May 1.
Worldwide sales of Rolls-Royce and Bentley increased 37 percent in the first quarter of 1999, to 344. Sales were up in all areas of the world except the United Kingdom, where the image of the company continues to suffer in the wake of its sale to VW last summer.
United Kingdom sales dropped 32 percent for the quarter. The Americas, including the United States, actually replaced the United Kingdom as the largest Rolls-Royce and Bentley market for the first quarter.
Ulrich Hackenburg, now director of car body development at VW brand, will become a member of the board for engineering at Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
Hans-Georg Melling, who has been working in dual roles in the finance departments at both VW and Rolls-Royce and Bentley, will devote all his time to the British company as of July 1.
In addition, Adrian Hallmark has been named a member of the Rolls and Bentley board for sales and marketing. Hallmark has been managing director of Porsche Cars Great Britain for the past three years.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley are owned by VW, which outbid BMW last summer. But in a complicated series of legal maneuvers, BMW won the rights to the Rolls-Royce brand name. Under the present agreement, BMW will begin manufacturing Rolls-Royces in 2003.
VW has promised it will invest $815 million in Bentley.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley are not the only British company with an increasingly German look. This month, the last British directors resigned from Rover Group, which is owned by BMW.
Rover's management structure now has been absorbed entirely by BMW.
BMW had adopted a 'let Rover be British policy' during the first five years of its ownership. But continuing losses forced BMW to revise that strategy this year.