Rover crisis: Nuts-and-bolts man moves on to be new boss at BMW

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The Independent Online
JOACHIM MILBERG, 55, an expert on car assembly, emerged as the new boss of BMW after a heated seven-hour board meeting in Munich.

Mr Milberg was nobody's favourite: he appeared to owe his elevation to the stalemate that had set in at BMW after the acrimonious departure of the company's two brightest stars. He has been at BMW for only six years.

Mr Milberg's background is in tool-making. He learnt assembly in Bielefeld. For two years he was an assistant lecturer at Berlin's Technical University. Then he worked for a machine tool firm, where he was responsible for automatic drills. He returned to Berlin in 1981, becoming professor of production technology.

At BMW, he has spent the past six years immersed in the nuts and bolts of production.

As a manager, therefore, he is relatively untested, and it is perhaps to his very obscurity that he owes his promotion.

The company's supervisory board, which consists of management, shareholders and workers' representatives, had intended to sack Bernd Pischetsrieder, blaming him for poor performance at Rover.

But his chief rival, Wolfgang Reitzle, who had advocated mass lay-offs in Britain, was vetoed by the workers' representatives. His proposals for a shake-up at Rover are now off the table.

Although Mr Milberg's views on the future of Longbridge are not known, it must be assumed that he would not be following Mr Reitzle's collision course with British unions.

He has some limited experience with foreign workers. Mr Milberg was the chief designer of BMW's new assembly plant in South Carolina, the company's first abroad.

That makes him an advocate of expansion outside Germany - although how he will try to incorporate Rover into the company remains to be seen.

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