|U.S. EXECUTIVE EUROPEAN AUTOMAKER: Ludwig Willisch, CEO, BMW of North America|
BMW took the top luxury sales slot away from Lexus in 2011 — the year Willisch came to the United States from his native Germany. Over the past three years, BMW sales in the United States have grown by 37 percent, and the company says it will set a new record in 2015.
Willisch, 59, also has helped repair BMW’s once strained relationship with its dealers by opening communication, introducing more transparency and appointing a retail and industry relations manager.
He’s leading the revamping of BMW stores and processes and the way the brand sells cars with the Future Retail program. That has included mandating that stores hire product Geniuses to explain features and technology to would-be buyers and to owners.
Willisch was a key driver of BMW’s decision to build the X7 — a full-size crossover designed specifically for the U.S. and due in the next two years.
Under Willisch’s leadership, BMW has entered new segments in the United States with lower-priced entry models, including the 320i sedan, the compact X1 crossover and the 2-series compact coupe and convertible. More than 80 percent of the buyers of these cars are conquests.