Former BMW and Fiat executive Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, who led Rolls-Royce and the M performance division during his 27 years at the German automaker, died Saturday following a motorcycle accident in England. He was 63.
Kalbfell worked for BMW from 1977 until 2004 in positions that included head of BMW Motorsport. He also played a key role in BMW's revival of the Mini brand from 2002 until 2004.
In 2005, Kalbfell joined Fiat Group, where he served as Alfa Romeo chief operating officer. That same year he was named Maserati CEO. Soon after leaving Fiat Group in late 2006 he opened his own business, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell Consultancy and Project Management. Since 2007, Kalbfell had served as a consultant at British niche carmaker Lotus, supplier Magna Europe and Russian contract manufacturer GAZ.
In a statement issued Sunday, BMW said it "mourns an amazing person and a passionate racer. For many years he was a formative figure and a driving force behind BMW Motorsport and BMW M."
The accident occurred at the Brands Hatch racing circuit in Kent. During practice for the British Motorcycle Racing Club's Lansdowne Classic Series, Kalbfell ran wide when exiting Druids corner and lost control on the way down to Graham Hill, according to a release from Brands Hatch. Kalbfell fell and was struck by another rider. Kalbfell was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he died, according to the release.
Officials with the racetrack also issued a statement in which Jonathan Palmer, chief executive of the Brands Hatch owner MotorSport Vision, said: "Karl-Heinz's passion for machinery and sport was demonstrated by his love for classic motor cycle racing and it is particularly cruel that he should lose his life enjoying his hobby."