Effective March 1, BMW North America will have a new CEO. Bernhard Kuhnt will take over the position from Ludwig Willisch, who stays on as Head of BMW Group Region Americas.

Willisch took on the North American CEO role in late 2011.

Kuhnt had previously spent nine years in sales management in the United States for BMW and is currently in charge of BMW Group importer markets, handling sales management for more than 80 countries.

Ludwig Willisch, Head of BMW Group Region Americas

Ludwig Willisch, Head of BMW Group Region Americas

Willisch announced the change and also announced that Peter Witt, Executive Vice President of Operations, will leave as Kuhnt comes in. Kuhnt will have the authority to hire Witt's successor.

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The move comes after BMW sold 313,174 vehicles in the U.S. in 2016, a decrease of 9.5 percent that also dropped the brand from second to third place among luxury marques. Mercedes-Benz took the luxury title at 374,151 vehicles, and Lexus surpassed BMW with 331,228 vehicles sold. BMW was in first place among luxury brands as recently as 2014.

BMW sales dropped in 2016 despite the fact that the overall market was up a modest 0.3 percent.

The brand's best sales year was 2015, with 346,023 vehicles sold.