CHRISTOPHER Wehner hails from Fulda, a small town in central Germany of about 70,000 inhabitants.
Founded in 744 AD, the town lies along the Fulda River which cuts through the Rhon and Vogelsberg Mountains.
It is little wonder then that the 51-year-old German loves the outdoors, motorcycles and convertibles. The latter two let him soak in the sights and sounds of nature on the go.
A graduate in Economics and Business Management from Friedrich-Alexander University in Nuremberg, it was natural for him to end up in BMW after stints in consumer goods marketing and in Audi marketing, a department he helped start in 1996.
After five years with Audi in Hamburg, he applied to BMW and was given a position in Land Rover marketing.
As soon as he landed the job in January 2000, Land Rover was sold to Ford and he was involved in the handover. Christopher chuckled as he recalled having to apply for a new job at BMW.
He was offered the General Manager position for Product, Price and Brand Strategy for MINI, which only had a headcount of thirty then.
He then moved up to Vice President Brand Strategies, Product Requirements and Revenue Targets for BMW, MINI, Rolls-Royce.
Later, Christopher was Head of Product Management for Midsize Class in BMW before being appointed as Managing Director of BMW Group Asia.
When offered the chance to work in Singapore, he accepted the position without even consulting his wife of 22 years.
However, his wife is supportive of him. She gave up her job in Germany to also move here. The couple have three children: a 22-year-old daughter, an 18-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter.
How do you find Singapore?
I think Singapore is one of the best places to live. The weather is nice and sunny. The best thing is that the people are very friendly, very professional and have the right attitude. It is a safe place and traffic is not too bad.
Some things here are better than in Germany. Parking is one example. You don’t need to take your ticket to the cashier and then go back to your car.
Is the job what you expected it to be?
Yes. I wanted a more entrepreneurial role with responsibility for profit and revenue.
In my last job, my calendar was full of meetings. The difference here is that I am the owner and master of my schedule so I can decide on my meetings.
I have more freedom to set my priorities. I am responsible for thirteen markets and there are always different challenges. Each country is so diff erent, each day you learn something new.
How different are the strategies, product requirements and revenue targets for each of the BMW brands?
We have similar processes for all the brands. We use nearly the same processes and methodology. For all our brands, the highest priority is creating brand awareness and desirability.
You were personally involved in the development of the latest Z4. Can you tell us more about that?
I was primarily involved in the product and marketing development processes. We had to define the target customer and attributes of the car.
The Z4 is one of my favourite products because I like driving with all my senses. I like opentop cars, along with smaller and lighter cars because they give you a better feeling of agility and cornering.
We wanted the Z4 to be a true sports car. That’s why we are using a soft-top in order to lower the weight of the car and its centre of gravity.
When you open the soft-top, you still have 280 litres of boot space. The older one was only half of that because of the hard-top.
What are your goals as managing director of BMW Group Asia?
To learn and listen to the customer and to have a more influence in terms of product development, so we can offer the right products for this region.
Things in Asia change twice as fast as they do in back home. Germany can learn a lot from this region. We must adapt to the future in order to be competitive and continue having business potential. We must understand our customers’ needs.
Which BMW model is your favourite?
In Germany, I drive the X5 a lot because it fits my lifestyle. I can take everything with me when I go skiing. You have luxury, technology and agility. Considering my big family, it is the perfect car for me.
But when it comes to driving pleasure, then it’s definitely the Z4.
What are your hobbies?
Tennis! I also enjoy skiing, mountain biking, running and golf. I also love hiking.
Christopher says the X5 is the ideal car for his family and their active lifestyle.
"THINGS IN ASIA CHANGE TWICE AS FAST AS THEY DO BACK HOME – GERMANY CAN LEARN A LOT FROM THIS REGION."
STORY SARJEET SINGH