Wiesmann Files for Insolvency as Luxury car Demand Wanes

Wiesmann GmbH, a German maker of retro-style luxury sports cars, has filed for insolvency at a local court and said it’s seeking strategic partners and investors.

Rolf Haferkamp remains chief executive officer and plans to restructure the company, Wiesmann said in a statement yesterday. Operations will continue at the headquarters and plant in Duelmen. Engines are supplied by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s biggest maker of luxury vehicles.

Wiesmann was founded 25 years ago by brothers Martin and Friedhelm Wiesmann, who developed the first prototype in the cellar of their home. The company, which markets cars combining “timeless design and modern technology" -- has 110 employees and has sold more than 1,600 of its handmade vehicles with maximum annual sales of about 200 in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The European car market has showed the signs of improvement as a recession ended in the 17 countries using the euro. Car sales in July rose in Germany, France, the U.K. and Spain, and the decline in Italy was the least this year, following a drop across the region in June to the lowest demand since 1996.

Niche Manufacturers

It’s difficult for niche companies to keep up with innovation and economies of scale in the car industry, said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.

‘‘Wiesmann may have been hit by declining sales within Europe’s car industry,” he said. "Often, it’s a mix between decreasing sales and rising costs for production and design that drives niche producers into insolvency.’’

Wiesmann filed for creditor protection -- a process comparable to Chapter 11 in the U.S. -- at the Muenster court on Aug. 14, the company said. The court appointed Norbert Kuepper as the insolvency administrator.

Fellow German sports-car maker Artega GmbH & Co KG filed for insolvency in June 2012.