BMW has appointed a woman to head its Asian head office in Singapore, a move unprecedented in the company’s history.

Birgit Maier is set to take up the position of managing director of BMW Asia in April, replacing the present chief, Felix Herrnberger.

Ms Maier, 42, is the first woman to lead a BMW subsidiary, and one of the youngest managing directors in the group. She is also one of barely a handful of women to occupy a post traditionally dominated by male executives.

Ms Maier started her career as a saleswoman with Mercedes-Benz in 1983 before joining BMW as a sales trainer in 1986.

She subsequently held the post of area manager for African-Caribbean markets and her most recent post was that of sales and marketing director for BMW Thailand.

She takes up her position at an important time for the company, which is about to embark on a major manufacturing venture in China.