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Exclusive: From the July 25 Issue of Automotive News

BMW will get new North American boss

More money for workers - but not as raises

They could've had a V-8 — but more opt for 4

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DETROIT, July 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Three top stories from the July 25 issue of Automotive News are previewed below.  

BMW will get new North American boss

Veteran BMW executive Ludwig Willisch, who has led sales operations in Europe and Japan, will take over as CEO of BMW of North America on Oct. 1.

The 54-year-old German will replace Jim O'Donnell, 61, who will retire.

O'Donnell, a native of Scotland, has held the job since July 2008. Willisch will arrive in the United States on Sept. 1 and work alongside O'Donnell during a one-month transition.

Since May 2009, Willisch has been head of BMW Group's European sales outside of Germany. Before that he was president of BMW M GmbH, the brand's performance division in Munich.

He began his BMW career in 1996 as head of the sales office in Duesseldorf, Germany. He later ran the sales subsidiaries in Germany, Japan and Sweden.

O'Donnell, previously BMW's top executive in the United Kingdom worked past the company's mandatory retirement age of 60. He leaves with BMW in good shape in the United States. Last month BMW outsold Mercedes-Benz to extend its lead as the top-selling luxury brand this year. And BMW is on track to outsell Lexus in the United States for the first time since 1997.

More money for workers – but not as raises

When the UAW squares off with Chrysler Group today to start contract negotiations, union President Bob King will be the man in the middle.

The Detroit 3 are adamant: no wage and benefit increases that will raise fixed labor costs.

But King's union members haven't had a raise in seven years. And many prefer the security of a wage increase to the iffyness of profit sharing.

King's job will be to reconcile the two positions — while pursuing his own agenda. King, eager to cast the UAW as a productive partner with the Detroit 3, wants workers to approve a new contract without an acrimonious fight.

The Detroit 3 have expressed willingness to pay bonuses or profit sharing, just so they don't lock in fixed costs.

But even this approach, if a contract is rejected by union members, could upset King's quest for partnership that he seeks to help sell the UAW to transplant workers in the South.

The Detroit 3 and the UAW begin contract talks this week covering 113,000 hourly workers. Current agreements expire Sept. 14.

They could've had a V-8 — but more opt for 4

Four is the new six.

Four cylinders have replaced sixes as America's most popular engine choice, powering 43 percent of U.S. light vehicles sold in the first half of this year, according to IHS Automotive.

In 2005, V-6s were in an identical 43 percent of vehicles sold. But over six years, four-cylinder engines rose while six-bangers fell, with fours overtaking sixes in 2009. That American icon, the V-8, has lost favor even faster. It now is under one of every six hoods vs. almost one of three in 2005.

The reduction in cylinders is even starker if you exclude fleet sales, which include batches of contractor pickups and vans for rug-cleaning franchisees. So far this year, more than half the vehicles sold to retail consumers had four cylinders, up sharply from a third in 2006, says J.D. Power and Associates.

Two factors are driving the shift. Buyers beset by high fuel prices are downsizing vehicles or opting for the smaller of two engine choices. And manufacturers are shrinking vehicles and engines to meet tougher 2016 federal fuel economy rules.

ABOUT AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

Based in Detroit, Automotive News has been the place for all the news that is happening among automotive retailers, suppliers and manufacturers since 1925.  In addition to the 100% paid weekly print issue that is received by 60,000 subscribers, autonews.com is a vibrant Web site with more than four million page views monthly.  It contains the day's breaking news and features two daily newscasts and webinars.  Daily and weekly e-mails and breaking news alerts keep the industry's top executives up-to-date.

SOURCE Automotive News



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