New managing director Lars Nielsen moves to Singapore from Dubai, where he was head of sales and marketing for BMW Group Middle East
SINGAPORE — A new managing director for BMW Group Asia is on the way. Lars Nielsen is set to take over the role on September 1st from Christopher Wehner, who is returning to Germany to assume a new post with Mini, where his career with BMW Group began in 2000.
BMW habitually rotates its regional chiefs after three-year stints. Having arrived in August 2018, Mr Wehner (below) is due to move. His last day in the office at BMW Group Asia is next Friday but he remains the managing director until the end of August.
The incoming boss is moving to Singapore from Dubai, where he was the head of sales and marketing for BMW Group Middle East, a role he took up in in 2019. He joined BMW in 2008 as the director of sales for BMW Denmark in his home country.
The move to Singapore won’t be Mr Nielsen’s first stint in Asia. Before working in Dubai, the 43 year-old was the sales and marketing director for BMW Group Thailand.
He takes over a sprawling territory from Mr Wehner. BMW Group Asia imports cars for 14 markets, the majority of them in developing economies: Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Bangladesh, Guam, New Caledonia, Tahiti, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Nepal.
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Mr Wehner is leaving the Singapore market in particularly fine shape for his successor. BMW ended 2020 as the top-selling luxury brand here and the second one in the overall market (counting authorised imports). In an interview, he called the feat the company’s “greatest achievement” for the year.
In that time he also saw BMW’s market share here reach 9.8 per cent, the highest in the world among the brand’s national sales companies, which is what it calls its own importers. BMW also topped the luxury segment in Indonesia last year, and managed the same in the Philippines for the second year in a row.
Naturally, the Covid-19 pandemic made working life interesting for Mr Wehner and his team. “The biggest challenge for me was running the BMW Group Asia business from home. First, the BMW Group Asia working culture is built on strong relationships. These hinge on working closely with colleagues within, and across, departments, and having in-person engagements,” he said in February. “When we were required to work from home, this culture was put to the test, but surprisingly it worked out much better than expected!”
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Mr Wehner also built up a personal rapport with the motoring media during his stint here. Having arrived from BMW’s product planning department, where he was responsible for the brand’s mid-sized cars, he won the instant respect of journalists for having intimate knowledge about many of the new models he launched.
With reporters he was generous with his time, answering the serious questions thoughtfully and the occasional nonsense query with good humour. In an interview about electric cars, this writer decided to throw in a random question about when Mr Wehner was planning to promote Preeti Gupta, the company’s redoubtable communications director. “She is on my promotion list every year,” he replied wryly. “I’m always open for recommendations on what else we can do for you.”
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