A Feature Story by Wallace Wyss
Now I am always looking for cars that will appreciate—that you can own for a few years and sell it for three times what you bought it for. I’ve actually done that on at least one car (a Ferrari GTC/4) but sold most too soon.
When I recently saw a 2002 BMW Z8 Convertible go at the Mecum Seattle auction in 2015 for $165,000, that rung the bell on a car whose existence I had plumb forgotten and now want to recommend as an upward mover in appreciation. Why? Because now they are finally going for more than they sold for new. I remember how this car came about. BMW had a head man, Wolfgang Reitzle, who was a perfectionist of the highest order, working 18 hour long days, driving the troops at flank speed (is that a mixed metaphor or do only ships move at flank speed?).
If you are a believer, like me, that a strong-minded executive can turn a company direction in positive ways (think Steve Jobs…), then his career in the car biz deserves looking at. In 1976, he joined BMW where he eventually got to the No. 2 position—where he was put in charge of product development in 1987 and stayed roughly ten years.
But then he jumped to Ford, where between 1999 and 1 May 2002, Reitzle ran Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, overseeing the Volvo, Jaguar, and Land Rover marques. But then he left Ford in somewhat of a huff because, as he broadcast to the media, he was not given sufficient control of developing new models all the way through to the production process. Ford’s viewpoint was more akin to the problem that can crop up when you are dealing with a perfectionist, i.e. there is no end to how much they want to spend to make each part perfect. Reitzle felt you needed perfection to compete with Lexus and BMW.
He could have gone to GM if he had accepted an offer from their Swiss-born top exec Bob Lutz, but it wasn’t a high enough ranking job, and he was quoted answering the offer with a naval metaphor that he “would rather be captain on a destroyer than first officer on an aircraft carrier.”
So he left the auto biz to become head of a company making fork lift trucks
But back to his time at BMW. Ol’ Wolfgang, he might have been head of BMW but damned if the car he treasured in his own garage wasn’t a Jag E-type roadster, V12 style. Now as hard as it is to rationalize, he decided BMW should make a car that looks like that, maybe because he saw a niche in the market for a luxury car, a two seater, with abundant power….
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