German luxury carmaker BMW has named Norbert Reithofer as successor to ceo Helmut Panke, who retires at the end of August after a four year stint at the helm.

Reithofer (50) is currently head of manufacturing. He is credited with implementing a flexible strategy to support the rapid rise in BMW sales during the past several years.

A 19-year veteran of the company, he has also run its plants in South Africa and South Carolina.

With technical expertise in manufacturing and international experience, analysts say Reithofer's selection signals that drastic change at BMW is unlikely in the coming years.

Comments Fredrik Westin, an analyst with WestLB in Düsseldorf: "He represents a coherent continuation of the strategy Panke began."

Panke, who is a reluctant pensioner but reaches the mandatory BMW retirement age on August 31, has overseen robust growth at the company during his tenure at the top.

Last year he steered BMW to overtake the Mercedes division of DaimlerChrysler as the largest luxury auto manufacturer measured by units sold.

From 2000 to 2005, BMW's worldwide vehicle sales have climbed 62% to 1.3 million annually, and net profit has nearly doubled to €2.2 billion ($2.78bn; £1.5bn).

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff