WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. -- Howard Mosher has been executive vice president for operations at BMW North America since May 2005. But his more than 30 years in the industry has been far-flung and included American Motors, Land Rover and Rolls-Royce.
Most recently, Mosher was director of worldwide marketing and sales for Rolls-Royce in England and was part of the group that relaunched the brand under BMW ownership. Before that, he was CEO of Land Rover North America until 2002.
He was interviewed at BMW headquarters by Staff Reporter Diana T. Kurylko.
With your experience at Land Rover and American Motors, you clearly have extensive knowledge of the SUV market. The current version of the X5 is being phased out. In looking at BMW buyers and the market in general, are SUV buyers less loyal?
Are people fickle in this segment? I'd have to say yes and no. I started out selling Jeep Grand Wagoneers and Cherokees, so I've actually lived through the beginning of it. I can recall times in my past when I said, "It has to be coming to an end."
The segment has shown amazing legs. On the other hand, there are a number of crosscurrents with new engine technologies aimed at fuel economy, etc. But I have to say the segment is flat to slightly down.
Mercedes just introduced the GL, and it seems to be doing quite well. People seem to still respond to new products. We have every expectation that when we get there with our new products, they will likewise respond.
Will the replacement X5, due next year, be bigger than the current model? Is this wise with gasoline prices on the rise?
Everyone is sensitive to what goes on with gas prices, but it is a matter of degree. People capable of buying these vehicles certainly can afford higher fuel prices. What the new X5 will do for us is to offer a new seating configuration and update the X5 concept. The combination of those two things should have enormous appeal.
But you aren't going to get as big as a full-sized SUV?
No. I have a pretty vivid memory of Bill Ford apologizing for the Excursion. Some people think they overdid it. We won't overdo it.
Do you need a new vehicle like the old Z8 sports car in your stable? Your competitors certainly think there is a market for an expensive sports car.
Our competitors up the road (Mercedes) have always done very well in the SL category. Do we need another Z8? I don't think so. Would those of us who love those kind of cars and BMW like a Z8? Or course we would. Whether it is coming or not, I have no comment to make.
How different is selling Rolls-Royce cars from BMWs?
It is different, not least because of the volume differences. In the U.S., Rolls-Royce will sell about 400 cars this year, and (BMW) will sell in excess of the 260,000 that we sold last year. The infrastructure, dealer network, marketing budgets and the like are very different. At Rolls-Royce, the line of communications is much shorter.
We haven't seen the Raum Funktionales Konzept, your new crossoverlike vehicle due later this decade, but we have seen the Mercedes-Benz R class. Sales are sluggish, and the vehicle has been repriced. How do you do a crossover vehicle that fits BMW's image and succeeds where Mercedes has not?
You could have said the same thing about the X5. That product (the new vehicle) is not yet fully defined, and some of the open issues have to do with how to make a vehicle that is space-functional and a BMW. The view is that social/demographic trends in the world suggest that there will be new vehicles developing to meet the needs of the future -- just as years ago there was no such thing as a minivan and then there was one. Futurists see an opportunity to create a vehicle that is functional in the way that vans and SUVs are not.
Why did you do so badly in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study? BMW was near the bottom of the list.
Because they moved the goal post. They put together two parallel sets of questions -- one is what they always ask, the other to do with design issues. If you compare apples to apples to the way they did it in the past, we were still in the top three. We had issues on questions that they never asked (previously), largely to do with driver interface in the car.
You may e-mail Diana T. Kurylko at [email protected]