Rover crisis: Soft line with Rover was the downfall of car-loving boss

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The Independent Online
BERND PISCHETSRIEDER, dismissed yesterday from the board of BMW, is not averse to taking a high-performance model out for a spin and wrecking it.

A soft-spoken Anglophile, he was accused by his German colleagues of having been too kind to Rover's British management.

He joined BMW in 1973 after studying engineering, and rose quickly through the ranks.

He acquired international experience between 1982 and 85 as head of the South African subsidiary.

Mr Pischetsrieder took over the reins of BMW in 1993, and wasted little time taking the family-owned company on a dangerous road. He saw the Bavarian firm as too isolated among the behemoths that were taking over the world, and set about expansion. Only a year after into his reign, he stunned the automotive world by buying Rover, which was then allied with Honda. The move was widely greeted in the car industry as a bold step to broaden BMW's product range with a mass- market, front-wheel drive model range that would bring technological benefits for the rear- wheel drive BMW line.

Although Rover was a money-loser, most believed that BMW, with its reputation for quality engineering and deep pockets, would have few difficulties in turning Rover around.

Indeed, even as BMW poured billions of marks into Rover, most analysts continued to put their faith in Mr Pischetsrieder, who kept turning in higher profits and sales. Last year, though, Munich believes the BMW boss lost the plot. Despite mounting evidence of problems at the British plants, which he concealed from his board, he would not contemplate a tougher line with British managers, as advocated by his adversaries.

Many factors were responsible for Rover's poor performance - notably the strong pound - and Mr Pischetsrieder asked for patience. The owners, though, grew increasingly concerned.

The recent revelation that profits fell last year, despite a record turnover, appeared to seal his fate.

Munich, and the money-men in Frankfurt, decided BMW would be better off without him. As rumours spread about his imminent dismissal, Mr Pischetsrieder experienced the final humiliation: BMW share prices soared by 7 per cent.

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