VW’s US CEO leaving automaker

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Michael Horn, president and CEO of Volkswagen’s US operations, is leaving the company “through mutual agreement” effective immediately, the company said Wednesday.

The German automaker said Hinrich J. Woebcken, who was recently announced as the new head of the North American Region and chairman of Volkswagen Group of America, will assume the role of president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America on an interim basis.

Horn, 54, has been president and CEO since January 2014.

“I want personally to say ‘thank you’ to Michael Horn for the great work he has done for the brand and with the dealers in the United States,” Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen brand, said in a statement. “During his time in the U.S., Michael Horn built up a strong relationship with our national dealer body and showed exemplary leadership during difficult times for the brand.”

The automaker has made numerous leadership changes since a diesel emissions scandal erupted last year.

“The Volkswagen leadership hammer continues to fall,” said Akshay Anand, analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “Ex-CEO Michael Horn had many VW dealers as allies, so it will be interesting to see if Woebcken can continue that, and more importantly, if he can help VW navigate through its crisis.”

VW sales last month continued a recent freefall, dropping 8.7 percent compared to February 2015. Sales are down 8.8 percent through the first two months of the year.

VW’s global sales fell 2 percent last year, although they rose 1.2 percent in the U.S.

The automaker is attempting to reorganize its operations after news broke last year that it lied on emissions tests for roughly 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide. New CEO Matthias Muller apologized to U.S. media for the first time in Detroit in January and said VW was having productive discussions with the EPA on implementing fixes to the affected cars, but a few days later the agency rejected VW’s initial plan.

The automaker is still trying to come up with a fix for the affected vehicles.

MMartinez@detroitnews.com

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