To the Editor:
I enjoyed "How the SUV drove luxury kings to power" (March 30).
As president of BMW of North America at the time of the X5 decision, I was actively engaged in board meetings in Munich presenting and pushing the North American interest in having a sports activity vehicle -- or SUV -- to compete with Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
The trend toward SUVs was clear, and our concern was that our owners could be attracted to the Mercedes ML or Lexus RX and that could put our car business at risk.
That argument was well-understood. However, our biggest hurdle was to answer a simple question: Why does BMW need an SUV when it already owns a well-respected SUV brand, Land Rover?
That was the compelling question for the board; any debate on whether or not a sports activity vehicle would dilute the brand was secondary.
In the end, Land Rover's refusal to locate its retail centers adjacent to BMW stores and the availability of capacity at our Spartanburg, S.C., plant swung the argument our way.
We were confident that any vehicle designed and developed under the leadership of Wolfgang Reitzle would more than meet BMW values. He did not disappoint us.
In the end, it was a critical strategic decision for BMW inasmuch as it enabled the company to sell Land Rover to Ford and to focus on its own range of SUVs, which, as the story pointed out, have helped power BMW to global leadership.
Monarch Beach, Calif.