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Surprise Move in Munich: Ex-Audi CEO Takes Over BMW M

In a stunning move, BMW announced that their M division’s management will be taken over by ex-Audi quattro boss Franciscus van Meel starting with January 1, 2015. Apparently, Dr. Friedrich Nitschke (59) will retire at the end of the year after working for BMW for the last 36 years of his life.
Dr. Friedrich Nitschke 3 photos
Franciscus van MeelDr. Friedrich Nitschke
The move comes as a surprise, especially since nobody expect it to be so bold and include van Meel’s name. That’s because the German doesn’t have all that much experience behind him. Just at the start of the year he was replaced as head of Audi’s quattro division by Heinz Peter Hollwerweger after leading it for just 18 months.

At that time, he was reappointed to head the company’s research and development branch set up in China. Back then, Audi claimed that this move was part of a scheduled rotation plan but sources inside the company claimed that van Meel was replaced because R&D boss, Ulrich Hackenberg was unsatisfied with the way things were progressing with the new R8 and R8 e-tron.

Looking over the position Franciscus got, the rumors would appear valid. That’s because most of the engineering research is usually done in the West, while Chinese R&D usually covers areas like software and infotainment.

Unfortunately, Dr. Nitschke’s decision is not negotiable and the company needed a new manager for the M division. His leadership over the last 3 years oversaw the creation of the new BMW M3 and M4, the cars that are regarded as a return to basics by most of the brand’s aficionados and auto journalists out there.

“The position of M GmbH on the market has never been better in the company's history and it continues to achieve sales record after sales record. Friedrich Nitschke has done outstanding work over the past years and has made a crucial contribution to the success of the company. The entire Board of Management of BMW AG would like to express its gratitude to him,” said Dr. Herbert Diess, Member of the Board of Management for Development.

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