Volkswagen has announced the appointment of Herbert Diess to its board of management, where he will assume a new function as chairman of the Volkswagen passenger car brand.
It's a function previously overseen by Volkswagen Group chairman Martin Winterkorn. Diess will take up the new role from 1 October 2015.
The bombshell announcement, made official in a media statement this morning, is seen as a major blow to BMW, which has experienced a drain of senior managers in recent times.
56-year-old Diess is currently member of the board of board of management at BMW, where he is heads up research and development.
In his current role he is responsible for not only the existing line-up of standard BMW models and their M division siblings, but also their successor models as well as future technical innovations being pursued by the German car maker.
The appointment of Diess to the position of chairman of the Volkswagen passenger car brand is the first step in what is expected to be a long and drawn out succession strategy at the top of the Volkswagen management ranks.
The new strategy follows indications by 67-year-old Winterkorn that he intends to remain chairman of the Volkswagen Group board of management beyond the end of his current contract, which expires on 21 October 2016.
“With Herbert Diess we will be welcoming an outstanding personality and one of the most capable minds in the automotive industry to our company. At the same time, this step puts the executive management of both the Volkswagen Group and the Volkswagen brand on an even broader footing,” said Winterkorn.
Responding to the news, BMW was quick to announce that Klaus Fröhlich would become its new development boss.
Another announcement made today by BMW confirmed that current CEO Norbert Reithofer will step down in May next year, to be succeeded by production boss Harald Krueger.
Reithofer, who has headed BMW since 2006, will join the firm's supervisory board, likely as Chairman.
Describing what it calls a "generational change" for the BMW board, the manufacturer said in a statement: "The automotive industry is undergoing a fundamental shift. Those who want to play an active role in shaping tomorrow's mobility need constantly to find viable solutions to future challenges.
"BMW Group plans to maintain its leading role in the premium segment. To achieve this, we have to hand over responsibility to the next generation at an appropriate time."
At 49 years old, Krueger is set to become the youngest CEO of a major car company. He will take up the new role after BMW Group's AGM on 13 May next year.