For all his strengths, BMW Chief Executive Harald Krüger, 52, has failed to emerge from the shadow of his predecessor Norbert Reithofer, known as the man who managed to overtake arch rival Mercedes-Benz and turn BMW into the world’s No. 1 premium automaker.
On Mr. Krüger’s watch, which started in May 2015, BMW lost that title back to Mercedes and fell even further behind in 2017. To be sure, that’s not necessarily Mr. Krüger’s fault because Mercedes corrected mistakes it had made in the past, and because its cyclical launch of new cars came before BMW’s.
But he’s got to reclaim the crown, or at least draw almost level with Mercedes, this year, insiders at BMW say. The supervisory board will measure his performance by the success of the company’s biggest new model rollout in its history, set for this year. The board, steered by the Quandt/Klatten family which owns almost half the company, will decide by the 2019 annual shareholders’ meeting whether to extend his contract, which expires in 2020.
Many senior managers at BMW said Mr. Krüger has found his footing and is doing better now than at the start of his tenure. In the three years since he was chosen over Herbert Diess, now head of the VW brand, at the recommendation of his mentor Mr. Reithofer, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan.