Bernd Pischetsrieder is a man of many distinctions. The most notable among those is that he has held the top post in two of Germany’s — and the world’s — largest automakers, BMW and Volkswagen Group. His other great distinction is that he managed to outsmart the extraordinary genius of Ferdinand Piech to dramatically snag the rights to the Rolls-Royce brand name. And even more remarkable is the fact that when he was sacked by BMW, the grand old man of Wolfsburg offered him the top job at Volkswagen.
So, for a man who was known for his business acumen and good judgement, Pischetsrieder made a shockingly colossal blunder at the Birmingham Motor Show in 1998. It was the day the 75, the latest model from Rover, was launched. Revealed at the same time as Jaguar’s S-Type, the Rover drew favourable reactions from show-goers and the journalists present. All were in agreement that this was a car that had the potential to pull the ailing brand out of its financial turmoil. For Pischetsrieder personally, this was a pet project, as Rover Group had a special place in his mind, one of the reasons being that Sir Alec Issigonis, who designed the Mini (which was built by Rover), was his grand uncle. It was just four years earlier that he got BMW to take over the British firm. It was baffling then that at the press conference following the unveil, Pischetsrieder launched a tirade against Rover and the British government’s policies, and threatened to offload the brand altogether.
With that press conference, Pischetsrieder virtually sabotaged the Rover 75’s future, and sealed the fate of the brand altogether. It severely affected the 75’s sale, and in just two years, BMW announced that Rover was up for sale. It also cost Pischetsrieder his job in Munich, although he found another in Wolfsburg soon.