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BMW Puts Kuhnt in Charge of North America

New man will need to reverse U.S. sales slide.

by on Feb.02, 2017

BMW named Bernhard Kuhnt the new CEO of BMW North America, succeeding Ludwig Willisch.

BMW was once the luxury king in the United States, but in each of the last two years, its ceded the sales title to another brand, but perhaps some new blood will turn that around.

The Bavarian automaker named Bernhard Kuhnt to become CEO of BMW of North America effective March 1. He replaces Ludwig Willisch, 60, who will continue on as head of BMW Group Region Americas.

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Willisch held both jobs for nearly five years, and under the new structure, Kuhnt, along with the operating heads of all BMW sales subsidiaries in North, Central and South America, reports to Willisch.

Kuhnt, 49, was formerly in charge of BMW Group importer markets. He supervised sales in more than 80 countries. One of his first tasks in his new job will be replace Petter Witt, who was executive vice president of operations for BMW of North America, until he announced he was leaving BMW at the end of February for a “new role outside the company,” according to a statement.

(Major refresh coming for BMW 4-Series. Click Here for the story.)

“I am delighted to welcome Bernhard Kuhnt to our Americas team,” Willisch said in the statement.

“Bernhard brings many years of experience in the global automotive industry to his new role here in the United States. At the same time, we are sorry to say goodbye to Petter Witt, but wish him the greatest success in his new business endeavor.”

Kuhnt will have a tall task in front of him. Until 2015, BMW was the top luxury seller in the U.S. ahead of the aforementioned German rival, Mercedes, and Lexus in a distant third.

(Click Here to check out the next-generation BMW 5-Series.)

In 2015, BMW set a new sales record of 346,023 compared to 339,738 from 2014, which was the previous record. The new number was a 1.8% increase. However, it finished second to Mercedes.

Mercedes-Benz USA reported its highest annual volume in its U.S. history at 380,461, up 3.8% on a year-to-date basis relative to the 366,589 vehicles sold in 2014.

Last year, BMW’s found the going even tougher as its U.S. brand sales slid 9.5% to 313,174 vehicles and fell to third place overall. Mercedes-Benz’s 340,237 units and Lexus’ 331,228 sales marking first and second and fourth-place finisher, Audi, is charging hard.

(Lexus aims to tackle BMW, Mercedes with all-new LS sedan. Click Here to check it out.)

The brand started 2017 well, sales were up 0.1 percent to 18,109 vehicles, it was only good enough for second place, far behind Mercedes-Benz’s 25,527 units.

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One Response to “BMW Puts Kuhnt in Charge of North America”

  1. Dave says:

    Who is the head of the Americas won’t matter. I find BMW designs boring. can anyone tell the difference between a 2006 3 series from a 2016?