Former BMW and Fiat executive Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, a key architect of BMW's Rolls-Royce and Mini strategies, died on Aug. 17 after a motorcycle accident in England. He was 63.
Kalbfell led Rolls-Royce and the M performance division during his 27 years at the German automaker, from 1977 until 2004.
He also oversaw Project Rolls-Royce in the three years after BMW bought the rights to the marque in 1998. He oversaw development of the brand's new factory at Goodwood, England, and the first BMW-made Rolls-Royce, the Phantom, which was introduced in January 2003. In 2004 he was named Rolls' CEO.
From 2002 to 2004, he played a key role in BMW's revival of the Mini brand. Kalbfell insisted that Mini be a separate brand and not be known as the BMW Mini or Mini by BMW.
Kalbfell was named an Automotive News Europe Eurostar in 2003 for directing Mini strategy.
In 2005, Kalbfell joined Fiat Group, where he was Alfa Romeo's COO. Also in 2005, 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 been a consultant at British niche carmaker Lotus, supplier Magna Europe and Russian contract manufacturer GAZ.
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.