Former BMW chief finance officer Michael Ganal has died, the automaker announced on Monday.

The management board member died on Thursday night, aged 54, “after a severe illness”, the company said.

Chairman Joachim Milberg said: “The news of Dr Ganal’s death has painfully torn apart our great hopes that he would be able to recover from his severe illness and resume his position on the board of management.

“We are losing not only an outstanding leader and a strong personality, but also and in particular a man who in recent years has contributed decisively to the success and the culture of our company.”

Ganal joined BMW in 1986 and the management board in October 2000, where initially he was responsible for sales and marketing. He had been in charge of finance since 2007.

Works council chairman Manfred Schoch said: “Through the death of Dr Ganal we are losing a self-confident and open partner. In all our professional debates and points of contention he always remained absolutely straightforward and firmly on the ground – and even in challenging times he always kept his focus on the concerns and worries of all the employees of the company.”

BMW recently named Friedrich Eichiner to replace Ganal as head of finance. Eichiner had headed corporate and brand development since October 2007 and had been heading finance temporarily for several months while Ganal was absent due to illness.