BMW brand sales in the western region surpassed 100,000 last year for the first time, making it No. 1 among the brand's four U.S. regions.
It was a milestone -- the West hadn't been No. 1 since 2006 -- that brought attention to Regional Vice President Petter Witt, who took over in January 2014 after running BMW Group Sweden.
Witt oversees 77 BMW and 33 Mini dealerships. He attributes growth in the region to "a good dealer network and great dealer relations."
A Swede who grew up in the United States, Witt worked at health care insurer Aetna in Philadelphia in the late 1990s but knew he wanted to get in with a European carmaker.
Several times over an 18-month period, he went to northern New Jersey, where the U.S. sales arms of BMW and several European auto companies are based. Witt said he'd just walk in with his resume. He used a variety of gimmicks to draw attention. Once, he put his picture in the windshield of a BMW model car and attached his resume.
In 1999, BMW hired him as a management associate. While Witt was in training, then-CEO Tom Purves called him into his office. He was asked to help run one of BMW's first weekend management retreats, which brought him in close touch with senior management.
Next came a series of regional sales jobs. In 2010, he was sent to BMW headquarters in Munich to manage import sales for 47 countries. Three years later, he was named managing director of BMW Group Sweden.
Then, he was assigned to Los Angeles to run the critical Western sales region that extends from New Mexico and Arizona to the Canadian border and includes Alaska and Hawaii.
Witt said he has relied on a mentor's advice: Take chances and act with confidence. His mantra: "Calculate risks, make decisions, get engaged and move the business forward."
-- Diana T. Kurylko