BMW CEO Helmut Panke is in an enviable position.
He heads one of the world's smallest but most successful automakers.
Panke succeeded Joachim Milberg in May 2002. Since then, he has emphasized internationalization. The carmaker has set up its own import companies in Hungary, Poland, Malaysia, Denmark and Greece and this year BMW began a joint venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd. in Shenyang, China, to produce the 3 series and 5 series there. Panke headed BMW in the US when the company decided to build cars in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The 57-year-old executive isn't afraid to stick to his convictions. He stands by some of the more controversial decisions made by BMW in recent years. These include the styling introduced by chief designer Chris Bangle and use of more electronics -- symbolized by iDrive -- in almost the entire lineup.
BMW recently expanded in the entry-premium segment with the new 1 series. Though the car competes with such volume mainstays as the Volkswagen Golf, Panke insists BMWs will continue to sell on the basis of their luxury characteristics.
Panke's carefully planned development of the Mini brand further adds to BMW's success.