Jim O'Donnell took over as CEO of BMW (U.S.) Holding Corp. in 2008, at the beginning of the industry's worst sales slump in recent history. BMW Group was coming off 16 straight years of increases in the United States. Now it is recovering from a 20 percent sales drop in 2009.
O'Donnell says BMW Group's U.S. sales will be up about 10 percent this year, and he expects BMW to pass Lexus to become the top U.S. luxury brand by 2012.
Over the next five years, BMW will introduce smaller cars, an electric plug-in and front-wheel-drive cars in the United States. But whether O'Donnell will be around for the changes isn't clear. In December he turned 60, BMW's mandatory retirement age. He says his three-year contract, which was to end in 2010, has been extended, but he won't say for how long.
O'Donnell was interviewed at BMW North America's headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., this month by staff reporter Diana T. Kurylko.
What is your outlook for the industry and for BMW for the rest of the year?
The market will be up about 10 percent for the year, and I'd like BMW [Group] to be in line with that. If you look at the way the year started off, we are tracking a bit behind the market.
How was your April?
April was OK. The underlying trend was stronger than last year. [BMW brand was] up 10 percent, and Mini was up 5 percent. The 5 series was down 2,000 units.
What do you expect from the new 5 series that debuts this spring?
It's our most important car, profitwise. It's been highly acclaimed across the world. We can't wait until it arrives. The competition and the E class are doing very well in this market and just seizing our share. … Read more