Could running Rolls-Royce become a stepping stone for BMW's Chief Financial Officer Stefan Krause to succeed Helmut Panke as BMW CEO in a few years?
Krause, 42, was not a natural candidate to replace CEO Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, who left Rolls last month to head Alfa Romeo.
Kalbfell was an enthusiast who had been involved in the creation of the new Rolls-Royce from the beginning. By contrast, Krause has always worked on BMW's financial side.
Panke, 58, was unhappy with the performance of Rolls-Royce and now Krause gets a chance to prove he can turn around BMW's super-luxury brand. Should he succeed, insiders say he will be in play when a replacement for Panke is needed.
That could be as early as 2006, when the youthful CEO turns 60. BMW board members normally retire at that age, but, given Panke's success at the helm, nobody would be surprised if he stays until age 63 or even longer.
When Panke eventually retires, other in-house candidates to succeed him include board member for production Norbert Reithofer, 48, and marketing board member Michael Ganal, 50.