Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, chairman and chief executive of BMW-owned Rolls-Royce, quit on Monday - only five months after his predecessor departed. Has the pressure of making the new Phantom project a success become too grim to bear?

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, chairman and chief executive of BMW-owned Rolls-Royce, quit on Monday - only five months after his predecessor unexpectedly departed. Has the pressure of making the new Phantom project a success become just too grim to bear?



CARtoday.com reported in May that Tony Gott, then chairman and chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, had unexpectedly resigned citing personal reasons. A former chief executive of Rolls-Royce and Bentley at Volkswagen, Gott was appointed in 2002 to replace Kalbfell.


Sources suggested that amid doubts that Rolls could sell 1 000 Phantoms a year in the current global economic climate, Gott and BMW chairman Helmut Panke didn't see eye to eye. That left Kalbfell, who initially supervised the Phantom's development under BMW and the preparation of the British factory in Goodwood, to become the first German to take over the luxury marque.


But five months later, a Rolls-Royce spokesman has announced that Kalbfell is "leaving at his own request because he is taking up a new job outside the company".


suggested Kalbfell was heading for another senior role in Europe with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz or Ford and that an announcement was expected soon.


A Munich-based source said: "He (Kalbfell) is 54. He is looking at the last six years of his career and the offer of a board position somewhere else was quite attractive."


BMW AG said its board member responsible for finance, Stefan Krause, would step in for Kalbfell until a successor was found.


BMW launched the Phantom in January last year and plans to sell 600 this year, compared with 300 last year, much lower than original projections of 1 000 units per annum.