Volkswagen wants full throttle forward – a new era for the largest car maker in the world?


New staff, new goals and new problems at VW. A new era begins for the Volkswagen Group. Herbert Diess, the new CEO, wants to rebuild the world’s largest carmaker into a true mobility group. The most important topics at a glance.

How the pictures are alike. In the middle of the exhaust gas scandal, in autumn 2015, the then strong new men wanted to push through a structural reform at Volkswagen. In the main roles: Matthias Müller, who is now being replaced, and chief overseer Hans Dieter Pötsch. It should be a “new beginning”, “faster” one wanted to be, less controlled from Wolfsburg. And today? The group reinvents itself once again. Müller’s successor Herbert Diess wants to accelerate decisions and give the brands more responsibility.

Works council chief Bernd Osterloh supports the project – forgotten seem the days when both men in the dispute over the “future pact” said austerity package were cross. The changes in detail:

1. Slimming or concentration of power?
– In 2015, Müller rejected a too rapid, radical change of course. “I do not believe in revolution.” Diess emphasizes today: it goes to a further development. Or rather a return? Diess retains the leadership of the core brand VW Passenger Cars in addition to the group leadership – and thus returns to the dual model, which is primarily linked to Ex-Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, who has been removed from office by “Dieselgate”.

In view of these plans, industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer reports criticism. The new corporate structure is in complexity no more to beat, Diess get the same power as Winterkorn. However, this is to be put aside a person responsible for the day-to-day business of the VW brand, a “Chief Operating Officer” (COO). Whoever completes this important position is not yet known.

2. Brands and Features
– Diess sees the world’s largest carmaker as a composite of strong brands, driven by tight corporate governance. To this end, the Supervisory Board resolved to divide into six operating units and the China region. They are the brand groups “volume” (VW, Skoda, Seat, light commercial vehicles), “Premium” (Audi) and “Super Premium” (Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini). An IPO is being prepared for the Heavy Commercial Vehicle Unit Truck & Bus. In addition come procurement / component as well as financial services. The goal is clear: One wants in the respective divisions more powerful against rivals such as Toyota / PSA / Renault / General Motors (volume), Daimler / BMW (Premium) or Daimler / Volvo (trucks and buses) will be.

The CEOs responsible for the brand groups are also to take over cross-brand management tasks. Audi boss Rupert Stadler takes care of the group sales, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume for the production, CFO Frank Witter to the IT.

Although “a reorganization of the group due to its complexity is urgently required,” says NordLB analyst Frank Schwope. A similar model as Diess once announced former boss and Winterkorn predecessor Bernd Pischetsrieder. “But this was never perceptible.” Diess emphasized that Volkswagen had to raise the pace even further in the “extremely challenging competitive environment”. Dudenhöffer assumes that this is successful as a “tougher manager”.

3. Additional personal information
The change at the top is surprising according to Schwope – especially since the Group is as successful as never. “However, Matthias Müller was from the outset a man of transition.” This was the most plausible choice as successor, as he had been responsible for the core brand around Golf, Tiguan and Passat for almost three years. He receives a five-year contract.

Simultaneously with Müller ‘s departure from the presidency, procurement manager Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz – at his own request – and personnel manager Karlheinz Blessing retires. Porsche’s CEO Blume and former Works Council Secretary General Gunnar Kilian are new members of the Executive Board. With Kilian, an intimus Osterlohs, the works council at Volkswagen even more powerful, so Dudenhöffer. Pötsch emphasized that Kilian’s suitability was “in no way questionable”.

4.) And what does Mathis Müller do?
The former CEO should have been internally accused Zauderei important decisions. Diess’ suggestion that the tempo must be increased seems to indicate that. On salary and regulatory issues, Müller also provided criticism with GDR comparisons. In addition, his suggestion to align the taxation of diesel fuel with that of gasoline did not pervade everywhere. He often acted impulsively and snippily.

It is clear that the VW Granden highly recognize Müller’s performance. In 44 years he has done “outstanding things” for the group, emphasized Pötsch. His personal relationship with Müller is intact, he has no problem with the cooperation. Müller’s contract runs until 2020, according to VW information he should be used as a consultant. The advantage: you divide in the good. This has a better effect on the outside, especially since the millions would otherwise have become a million euros.

5.) Future topics
This is said to have a great interest in e-mobility, already in his time at BMW, he brought the topic forward. At VW, he makes car IT a top priority, everything about networking comes under his wing, as well as research and development. In the point he should actually teach the group more tempo – even if some wonder why not the role of VW digital executive and ex-Apple manager Johann Jungwirth was also upgraded.

In the digitalization, carmakers have to be careful not to one day become suppliers to the IT giants. The competition with BMW / Intel, Daimler / Bosch or Fiat Chrysler / Waymo does not sleep. The detached Müller reminded the 650,000 employees in his farewell email: “Our industry is in transition – little will remain as it was.

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