VW contemplates shakeup; Mueller’s future uncertain
Frankfurt, Germany – Volkswagen said Tuesday it was considering a leadership change at the top and German news media reported that CEO Matthias Mueller would step aside as soon as Friday for Herbert Diess, head of the core Volkswagen brand.
The company said it was contemplating a management reshuffle and reassigning responsibilities among executives that “could include a change in the position of the chairman of the board of management,” the German term for CEO.
Volkswagen said in a short statement that board of directors Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch was in discussions with top managers about their duties and that the result of the talks was “currently open.”
The statement said Mueller “showed his willingness to contribute” to the changes, but stopped short of saying whether Mueller was leaving his current job.
Germany’s Handelsblatt business publication and the national Bild daily reported that Mueller would be replaced as early as Friday by Diess, a former BMW executive who joined Volkswagen in 2015.
Mueller, 64, was head of Volkswagen’s richly profitable Porsche division when he unexpectedly was handed the CEO job in September 2015. Predecessor Martin Winterkorn fell victim to the company’s scandal over cars rigged to cheat on diesel emissions tests.
As CEO, Mueller led Volkswagen through the scandal, which included billions in fines and penalties, to record sales and strong profits.
After-tax profit rose to 11.6 billion euros ($14.3 billion) last year, on sales of 230.6 billion euros. The company sold a record 10.74 million vehicles, making it the world’s largest carmaker, though the title is disputed by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, which sold 10.6 million and says Volkswagen is counting trucks that aren’t cars.
Diess was regarded as a potential future CEO when he joined Volkswagen in July 2015 after serving as head of vehicle development for BMW. But when Winterkorn fell, he had been with Volkswagen for less than three months.
Since then, Diess has worked to cut costs and increase profits at the core Volkswagen brand. The company also makes cars under the Audi, SEAT, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini brands.
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