The comments from Stefan Quandt, whose family controls a stake of almost 47 percent in the Bavarian carmaker, highlight the contrasting fortunes at two of Germany's most influential companies.

"We have set the course for the future and are very happy about a successful generational change at the top of the company," Quandt told BMW shareholder in Munich, referring to the appointment of Harald Krueger as chief executive from Wednesday.

It was the first time he has spoken at an annual general meeting and was a gesture to underline the strong support BMW's management enjoys from the owning family, a spokesman for the Quandt clan said.

Such support could prove crucial for Krueger as he sets about the challenge of maintaining BMW's lead over rivals Mercedes and Audi as the top-selling premium carmaker.

Volkswagen, meanwhile, has been thrown into turmoil by a split between Ferdinand Piech, the company's former chairman, and his cousin Wolfgang Porsche over whether to back Martin Winterkorn as chief executive.