With disappointing sales figures last year and a new U.S. president threatening punitive tariffs, BMW could hardly have had a worse start to 2017 in North America.
Now, the Munich-based luxury carmaker has pinned its hopes on Bernhard Kuhnt to turn things around in this important market. BMW likes to call the United States, where it sells more cars than its German home market, its “second home.” Mr. Kuhnt will take over as chief executive of BMW of North America on March 1, according to a company press release.
Current CEO Ludwig Willisch will relinquish the post but keep his position as head of BMW Group Region Americas and Mr. Kuhnt will report to him.
The new CEO is no stranger to the region, having spent nine years in automotive sales management in the U.S. Currently, he is responsible for the BMW Group importer markets and oversees sales in more than 80 countries.
Before joining the Bavarian automaker, he spent 15 years working for rival Mercedes-Benz then switched to Jaguar Land Rover.
The changeover comes after BMW sold 313,174 vehicles in the U.S. in 2016, down 9.5 percent on the year before, although the market grew by a modest 0.3 percent.
BMW was in first place among luxury marques in the U.S. as recently as 2014, but last year it came a distant third, trailing competitors Mercedes Benz and Lexus.