• BMW North America president Jim O’Donnell to be replaced by Ludwig Willisch - Was O'Donnel forced out over EV comments?

      The last time we brought you news about BMWNA head Jim O'Donnell it was that he was being forced to apologize over comments he made over electric vehicles. We really liked that Jim O'Donnel told it like it was and did not hold back. It seemed he ruffled some feathers by not buying into BMW's 'i' electric vehicle cult and actually suggesting that, gasp, more diesels in North America may be a good idea. Is it just a coincidence that just over 2 months after these comments and the seemingly forced apology he is being replaced?

      The man taking his place will be 55 year old Ludwig Willisch. If the name sounds familiar it is because Ludwig here was previously head of the BMW M division. He moved over from head of European Sales. Will Ludwig just be a corporate yes man or will he be capable of thinking for himself like Jim O'Donnell was? If you want to be in a head executive position, probably best to not question BMW's strategy or else you may find yourself in early retirement.

      This article was originally published in forum thread: BMW North America president Jim O’Donnell to be replaced by Ludwig Willisch - Was O'Donnel forced out over EV comments? started by Sticky View original post
      Comments 18 Comments
      1. leo985i's Avatar
        leo985i -
        What a great post to work for. Maybe not so much right now with BMW's new vision of bull$#@!, but still a great honor. Grats to the new man in charge, and yes he was probably forced out for being too outspoken, that's usually how things like this go. Sad but true........
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by leo985i Click here to enlarge
        What a great post to work for. Maybe not so much right now with BMW's new vision of bull$#@!, but still a great honor. Grats to the new man in charge, and yes he was probably forced out for being too outspoken, that's usually how things like this go. Sad but true........
        The timing is definitely something to think about.

        I liked this guy. Maybe now since he will be retired it will be easier to get an interview with him and get "candid" responses.
      1. DBFIU's Avatar
        DBFIU -
        LOL could be BMW look any stupider for doing this? I think not.
      1. jacksonhandy's Avatar
        jacksonhandy -
        Yeah, but to the everyday Joe Schmoe carbuying public, does this even matter? They just see the dealership. Matters to people who know cars and care that much, but not to the normal customer.
      1. blkclk550's Avatar
        blkclk550 -
        I will be taking his position =D
      1. Sorena's Avatar
        Sorena -
        why BMW sucks recently?
      1. FLYING X5's Avatar
        FLYING X5 -
        Because they can, and the regular consumer will continue to buy BMW for the status, not the performance... Those of us who actually care about the performance will cry wolf, and BMW will look at us funny and say, "So What? We got your money already"
      1. DBFIU's Avatar
        DBFIU -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by jacksonhandy Click here to enlarge
        Yeah, but to the everyday Joe Schmoe carbuying public, does this even matter? They just see the dealership. Matters to people who know cars and care that much, but not to the normal customer.
        if they thought that why then why fire him?
      1. jacksonhandy's Avatar
        jacksonhandy -
        I'll be honest, I visit this website a good bit, but I never would have noticed that this had occurred had it not been on the site. Perhaps if a person used the power of the googles for electric vehicles and found his comments, then that would be bad. I just think that the average person wouldn't notice. They just want to have top guys "on board the train".
      1. singletrack's Avatar
        singletrack -
        Eh - when you are a part of a team, you don't betray them. When you work for a major corporation, your opinion should be voiced behind closed doors and when a decision is reached, you need to be able to suck it up and accept that. I think major executives expressing opinions contrary to the strategy of the company, in a public setting, is totally inappropriate - I would have fired him also.
      1. singletrack's Avatar
        singletrack -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by DBFIU Click here to enlarge
        if they thought that why then why fire him?
        I'm sure they don't feel that way. Further, I can almost guarantee you that the guy was a big problem internally if he has such poor judgement in a public setting.

        I've dealt with tough and controversial decisions in a corporate setting. There are often heated debates and different camps internally. What you will find though is that true professionals will move on to the next challenge once a decision is made. Dwelling on a decision that is already made and continuing to voice an opinion contrary to the corporate direction, and investment, is immature and counterproductive.

        ...and just for the record, I have zero interest in electric vehicles. I'm just analyzing his actions from a professional perspective.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by jacksonhandy Click here to enlarge
        Yeah, but to the everyday Joe Schmoe carbuying public, does this even matter? They just see the dealership. Matters to people who know cars and care that much, but not to the normal customer.
        You are right, average person does not care.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by singletrack Click here to enlarge
        Eh - when you are a part of a team, you don't betray them. When you work for a major corporation, your opinion should be voiced behind closed doors and when a decision is reached, you need to be able to suck it up and accept that. I think major executives expressing opinions contrary to the strategy of the company, in a public setting, is totally inappropriate - I would have fired him also.
        Betraying a team isn't done by saying what is best for the team. Simple agreeing with everyone else is something anyone can do.
      1. singletrack's Avatar
        singletrack -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        Betraying a team isn't done by saying what is best for the team. Simple agreeing with everyone else is something anyone can do.
        I'm sure he expressed his displeasure internally in the appropriate forum - assuming he was actually involved in the decision making process. But once the decision is made, the company needs to have a coherent message to the public. If BMW isn't even on the same page internally, then how will consumers trust their decision making and direction? Corporations are not a democracy and you do not have free rein to say whatever you want when representing the company.

        Undermining a decision that is going forward and has millions of capital investment is not good for anyone at BMW - most importantly, their shareholders. His statement clearly was not going to change the decision, so it served no constructive purpose for the company. I'm sure he was aware of that fact as well and yet he chose to put his personal opinion ahead of the company message. The same company paying him 100k of dollars and surely much more than that in stock options. Anyone doing the same for any other major corporation would likely find himself on the chopping block as well.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by singletrack Click here to enlarge
        I'm sure he expressed his displeasure internally in the appropriate forum - assuming he was actually involved in the decision making process. But once the decision is made, the company needs to have a coherent message to the public. If BMW isn't even on the same page internally, then how will consumers trust their decision making and direction? Corporations are not a democracy and you do not have free rein to say whatever you want when representing the company.
        If what they are doing is the wrong strategy someone needs to have the courage to speak out rather than just display the same, flawed thinking. How did having every exec say the same thing work out for GM?

        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by singletrack Click here to enlarge
        Undermining a decision that is going forward and has millions of capital investment is not good for anyone at BMW - most importantly, their shareholders. His statement clearly was not going to change the decision, so it served no constructive purpose for the company. I'm sure he was aware of that fact as well and yet he chose to put his personal opinion ahead of the company message. The same company paying him 100k of dollars and surely much more than that in stock options. Anyone doing the same for any other major corporation would likely find himself on the chopping block as well.
        Very true and you raise a great point. However, how is not voicing alternatives going to help anyone? All the guy said was diesels are likely the answer and BMW already has a tremendous diesel investment. He may actually have been saying the right things for the share holders.

        Just blindly agreeing won't get the best product or path from BMW.
      1. singletrack's Avatar
        singletrack -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        If what they are doing is the wrong strategy someone needs to have the courage to speak out rather than just display the same, flawed thinking. How did having every exec say the same thing work out for GM?
        That's the thing though - I actually agree with everything he is saying. I just don't think it's his place to take a position opposite of the company in public - that's all. Beat people up internally all you want; try to get BMW to lobby against EVs in Washington. Even by his own admission it is largely a response to tax subsidies for specific technology - electric cars. All this even though the technology really doesn't make sense today.

        It's the same deal with Ethanol, corn subsidies, and tariffs. In a free market, the US corn industry fails - period. Because we can import the raw materials (corn) or refined materials (Ethanol) for cheaper from other countries. I don't like any of it, but it is what it is *right now*. In a free economy, I doubt there would be any electric vehicles for years - the US government is creating the market, just like they force feed us US ethanol in pump gas for more than it should cost us! BMW is reacting to the market conditions and, unfortunately, the conditions favor big government liberals with a specific environmental agenda and not the end consumer or even the informed environmentalist.

        As for GM - they were a $#@! company for years and anyone that did business with them would have told you they were headed for disaster. BMW on the other hand is breaking every record in the book over the past year, so I tend to think that, in general, they know what they're doing and where they are going.

        Very true and you raise a great point. However, how is not voicing alternatives going to help anyone? All the guy said was diesels are likely the answer and BMW already has a tremendous diesel investment. He may actually have been saying the right things for the share holders.

        Just blindly agreeing won't get the best product or path from BMW.
        Well yes and no. I mean if you look at the diesel options they have in Europe, and the rest of the world, vs. the US it's a joke. I think the real red-flag comment was about EV's not working for 90% of the people or more. It's totally true! But the company he is working for is dumping millions into EV advertising. So put yourself in the shoes of the people making the call to dump money into the technology and the marketing. Then think about how you might react when one of your own employees says - "yah it doesn't make sense".

        It's not a question of blindly agreeing, it's a question about affecting change. He made a comment that was sure not to change anything at BMW or in the US Gov. But it did make him a target at BMW and I'm sure it blipped with the staffers for various government representatives including that guy from Chicago. I can totally understand his frustration, but controlling those comments is part of being an executive.

        I hope the guy goes on a tear now that the hand cuffs are off, but I severely doubt it will change anything. You are literally talking about taking on Obama's baby. Look at the moronic Chevy Volt - we (the taxpayers) are literally paying people to buy this useless piece of $#@!. It's a joke - the more you learn about the topic, the crazier you will go. At least, if you actually believe in capitalism and the true purpose of government as the founding fathers intended.

        My soap box just cracked; time to get down ; )
      1. Itsbrokeagain's Avatar
        Itsbrokeagain -
        All these politics these days have my head in a frenzy. I need to stop listening to the AM channels, or the radio in general.

        I personally hate EVs...I never ever saw the need for them, you pollute more to make the electricity to power these vehicles, while diesels these days are virtually soot and emissions free.

        Look at Benz..they tried the whole EV thing, the hybrids, etc. There is a reason why you cannot finance the ML 450 V6 hybrid...they wont allow you to. Why? Because the company that makes the batteries went out of business when the economy crashed. Lease is the only option...so this way if the battery craps out, they just give you a new car that they have on the lot. Otherwise everytime that $20,000 battery took a $#@! they would be facing lawsuits left and right.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by singletrack Click here to enlarge
        That's the thing though - I actually agree with everything he is saying. I just don't think it's his place to take a position opposite of the company in public - that's all. Beat people up internally all you want; try to get BMW to lobby against EVs in Washington. Even by his own admission it is largely a response to tax subsidies for specific technology - electric cars. All this even though the technology really doesn't make sense today.

        It's the same deal with Ethanol, corn subsidies, and tariffs. In a free market, the US corn industry fails - period. Because we can import the raw materials (corn) or refined materials (Ethanol) for cheaper from other countries. I don't like any of it, but it is what it is *right now*. In a free economy, I doubt there would be any electric vehicles for years - the US government is creating the market, just like they force feed us US ethanol in pump gas for more than it should cost us! BMW is reacting to the market conditions and, unfortunately, the conditions favor big government liberals with a specific environmental agenda and not the end consumer or even the informed environmentalist.

        As for GM - they were a $#@! company for years and anyone that did business with them would have told you they were headed for disaster. BMW on the other hand is breaking every record in the book over the past year, so I tend to think that, in general, they know what they're doing and where they are going.
        He was asked his thoughts in an interview and replied. He wasn't intending for this to be some huge issue. Doesn't the context matter? He was not asked what do you think of BMW's electric direction at some huge conference or something. Just an off the cuff remark about the range limits being an issue for most people and they will be.

        He did give some of his political opinion about making a bet on technology and he is right.

        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by singletrack Click here to enlarge
        Well yes and no. I mean if you look at the diesel options they have in Europe, and the rest of the world, vs. the US it's a joke. I think the real red-flag comment was about EV's not working for 90% of the people or more. It's totally true! But the company he is working for is dumping millions into EV advertising. So put yourself in the shoes of the people making the call to dump money into the technology and the marketing. Then think about how you might react when one of your own employees says - "yah it doesn't make sense".

        It's not a question of blindly agreeing, it's a question about affecting change. He made a comment that was sure not to change anything at BMW or in the US Gov. But it did make him a target at BMW and I'm sure it blipped with the staffers for various government representatives including that guy from Chicago. I can totally understand his frustration, but controlling those comments is part of being an executive.

        I hope the guy goes on a tear now that the hand cuffs are off, but I severely doubt it will change anything. You are literally talking about taking on Obama's baby. Look at the moronic Chevy Volt - we (the taxpayers) are literally paying people to buy this useless piece of $#@!. It's a joke - the more you learn about the topic, the crazier you will go. At least, if you actually believe in capitalism and the true purpose of government as the founding fathers intended.

        My soap box just cracked; time to get down ; )
        It is a huge joke unfortunately. I do not understand why we have such a limited diesel offering from companies that have very diverse diesel line ups.

        I would appreciate employees who can think for themselves. Especially top level executives. I would not force someone to apologize for saying what we are all thinking. If he went out and said everyone at BMW is an idiot and electric vehicles are stupid F everyone at BMW that would be different. At least he got people to think.

        Hell, at least he wasn't so scared about toting the company line as to just shut up and do nothing. He may have sacrificed his career to get BMW to take notice of something. That is an exec I want.

        No reason to get down, good posts.