Porsche boss Matthias Müller has been announced as the new CEO of the VW Group, replacing Martin Winterkorn, who resigned from the top position at the scandal-hit firm on Wednesday.
Müller, who had emerged as the frontrunner for the top job at VW earlier this week, is said to have signed a contract that lasts through to 2020. Several other major changes were also announced, as the VW Group heavily revised its management structure to focus on more responsibility and governance at regional level.
“Mr Müller is happy to take this on at difficult times for the company. Müller knows the VW Group and will immediately set upon his new tasks with his whole strength. We particularly appreciate his critical view of things,” said Berthold Huber, deputy chairman of the supervisory board for the VW Group.
“The emissions test stories are a moral and political disaster for VW. Illegal behaviour of development engineers in development of engines has shocked the public. I would like to apologise in every form in front of the public, the authorities and our investors,” he added.
Huber confirmed that figures at the VW Group would be suspended – but stopped short of announcing the much-expected departures of several key figures in the engineering division. “The board of management, according to latest findings, has recommended to immediately suspend some employees until final investigations have been made,” he said. “An American legal company has been put in charge of further investigations and they are also to prepare.”
New VW boss Matthias Müller said: “My most urgent task is to win back trust for the Volkswagen Group – by leaving no stone unturned and with maximum transparency, as well as drawing the right conclusions from the current situation. Under my leadership, Volkswagen will do everything it can to develop and implement the most stringent compliance and governance standards in our industry. If we manage to achieve that then the Volkswagen Group with its innovative strength, its strong brands and above all its competent and highly motivated team has the opportunity to emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”
He went on to say that he was only recently asked to take on the role, saying: “The supervisory board asked me today to take on the position of chairman of the board of VW. I am grateful for this confidence. I take on this role in times where our company faces challenges it has never had to face before, but I take on this challenge with confidence. I will do everything it takes to win back confidence of our employees, investors, staff and the public. Our patience will be tested as much as yours but speed is less essential than being thorough.”
He added, “At no point was the safety of our vehicles or our customers in danger. That is important to me.”
Stephan Weil, a member of VW’s supervisory board, paid tribute to outgoing boss, Martin Winterkorn, saying: “The farewell of Martin Winterkorn is a very special moment. A lot is owed to Professor Winterkorn.”
The supervisory board also approved a new management structure for the group and the brands as well as for the North America region.
Berthold Huber said: “The new structure strengthens the brands and regions, gives the group board of management the necessary leeway for strategy and steering within the company, and lays a focus on the targeted development of future-oriented fields.”
Winfried Vahland, formerly chairman of the board of directors at Skoda, has now taken over as boss of a reorganised North American region, which now includes USA, Mexico and Canada combined. His successor at Skoda will be Bernhard Maier, who was until now sales and marketing of Porsche.
Significantly, Michael Horn, the under-fire president and CEO of Volkswagen Group USA, has retained his job despite earlier rumours that he would be axed. It is understood that US dealer groups lobbied for him to stay in his role.
Jürgen Stackmann has been shifted from his job as chairman of Seat to take over Christian Klingler’s role as sales and marketing boss at Volkswagen.
Klingler is leaving the company with immediate effect, with the reason for his departure given as “part of long-term planned structural changes and as a result of differences with regard to business strategy”. But Volkswagen stressed that his departure from the company was “not related to recent events”. Matthias Müller will lead the sales department at group level in the interim.
The new Seat chairman is Luca de Meo, currently sales and marketing chief at Audi.
The board has decided to abolish the production department at Volkswagen Group management level, giving more responsibility to the individual car brands and also to geographic regions.
Huber said: “Going forward, the brands and regions will have greater independence with regard to production. So it follows that they should also hold the responsibility for these activities.”
The group is also going to “scale back [its] complexity”, said Huber.
Existing corporate bodies, structures and processes will be streamlined at group level, in particular by strengthening the brands and regional accountability. To that end the Volkswagen brand will introduce a management structure with four regions, each led by a local CEO with a direct reporting line to the brand chairman, Herbert Diess.
VW’s group reorganisation includes the creation of a Porsche brand group, including both the Bugatti and Bentley marques, which will utilise use of what bosses term “the sports car and mid-engined toolkit.
No director has yet been announced as head of the new division, but insiders believe Wolfgang Dürheimer, who had a long career at Porsche and currently leads both Bentley and Bugatti, is the strongest contender.
This Audi brand group, incorporating Lamborghini and Ducati, will continue, but the whole “toolkit” strategy will come under closer guidance from the group CEO. The volume brands — Volkswagen, Seat and Skoda — which utilise the “transverse toolkit” will each be represented by separate members on the board of management.