Technological changes can often wrongfoot entire industries, Norbert Reithofer told a roundtable discussion at the Geneva auto show as he prepares to hand over to Harald Krueger, the German luxury carmaker's current head or production, in May.
Krueger will have the usual problems associated with fluctuating oil prices and volatile markets. But there are new issues he will have to face too.
"Alternative drivetrains and networked and highly-automated cars will be the main challenges," Reithofer said, adding there was also the potential emergence of new competitors, such as technology firms Apple and Google.
"Another topic will be new players entering the field of autonomous driving who have never built a car before."
Being an established player was no guarantee of success.
"The typewriter was replaced by the personal computer and many people underestimated that. For me the auto industry is not shielded from new entrants who have know-how in software and networked cars," Reithofer said.
"They can emerge as very serious competitors when I look 10 to 15 years into the future. From BMW's point of view we have to take these competitors very, very seriously," he said.