1995: Bernd Pischetsrieder
Chairman of the Board, BMW
Responsible for starting BMW production in the U.S. and buying Rover.
In our words: “As chief manufacturing executive, he had direct responsibility for BMW’s decision to build cars in the United States, the company’s first-ever plant outside Germany to supply the world market. And the acquisition of 80 percent of Rover Group Holdings from British Aerospace, consummated in the first quarter of 1994, was also his initiative.”
In his own words: “Excitement in the United States really proves my personal point of view. We haven’t yet proved to the customer that we will be able to manufacture a BMW car comparable to a German product in the United States, but now the same market research is exactly the opposite–we love it, we look forward to getting it. This is thrilling to me…the pride of the American manufacturing industry has improved. There was no pride six or seven years ago.
What happened next: is either a failure or a success, depending on which way you look at it. Pischetsrieder’s purchase of the Rover Group may have been an overall failure–Land Rover was sold to Ford in 2000, Rover hemorrhaged money and ultimately went nowhere–keep in mind that the overall strategy gave us the MINI Cooper and Range Rover (at least a new version of it), both highly successful cars. Too bad the Range Rover’s successes were realized mostly under Ford and Tata’s ownership. Pischetsrieder, meanwhile, moved over to Volkswagen Group, where he Chaired Seat, Volkswagen, and Scania, before reportedly being pushed out in 2006.