Matthias Muller to be next Volkswagen CEO
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 emerged as the frontrunner for the top job at VW earlier this week, with German newspapers and key news agencies quoting “inside sources” who backed the man who has been in charge of Porsche since 2010. Several other major changes were also announced, as the VW Group heavily revised its management structure.
“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 Board.
“Emissions test 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.”
The suspension of several more key figures at the VW Group was also announced, with Huber saying: “The board of management, according to latest findings, has recommended to immediately suspend some employees until final investigations have been made. A US/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. 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, commented on the meeting, which was called at short notice and took place at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. “We had a good meeting of the board of management.”
He paid tribute to outgoing boss, Martin Winterkorn, saying: “The farewell of Martin Winterkorn is a very special moment. A lot is owed to Prof Winterkorn. It was also a meeting of a new beginning.
“The new chairman of the board Matthias Müller will have full support of all members of the board of management.”
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.
Here’s the lowdown on Müller – and other VW Group executives featuring in the current job shake-up.
Matthias Müller – Matthias Müller is the strong favourite for the position of VW Group CEO, and he certainly has all of the obvious credentials. For starters, he’s a VW brand lifer, having started his career as an apprentice at Audi back in 1977. A graduate in computer science, he worked in Audi’s IT department before joining its planning division.
Müller has a strong background in product; he was the manager for the Audi A3 and then became overall product boss for Audi in 1995.
Now 62, Müller’s career over the past decade and a half has been linked closely to Winterkorn’s rise to power (a factor which could yet hurt his prospects of succeeding him). Winterkorn put Muller in charge of Audi and Lamborghini products in 2002 and when he took over as VW Group CEO in 2007, he duly gave him responsibility for all VW Group product strategy.
Winfried Vahland – Previously the boss of Skoda, 58-year-old Winfried Vahland is said to be highly regarded by several VW Group board members, and is now boss in the North American region.
Vahland differs from Stadler and Muller in that he has worked at car companies outside of the VW Group. He studied a mixture of mechanical engineering and business at university, then followed up his studies at the General Motors Institute in Michigan before joining Opel as a project analyst in 1984. He moved up through GM Europe to take control of a manufacturing strategy review there, before joining Audi as Director of Controlling in 1990.
One of Vahland’s strengths is his experience of regional divisions; he’s worked with different VW Group brands in Brazil, the Asia-Pacific and, crucially, he had a five-year stint working in China.
He was made CEO of Skoda in 2010 and is currently focused on taking the Czech brand towards its goal of 1.5 million sales per year by 2020. He may not get to see that project through directly if the VW Group board comes calling.
Herbert Diess – Another candidate with plenty of experience outside of the VW Group, Herbert Diess is a relatively recent recruit to the company’s management line-up. Indeed, he only joined Volkswagen back in July, moving across from BMW to become the Chairman of the Board at VW’s passenger cars division.
Diess’s background is in vehicle technology and mechanical engineering, and he joined Bosch in his home city of Munich as long ago as 1989. He moved to the firm’s plan in Treto in Spain in 1990, before returning to Bavaria in 1996 to become BMW’s Director of long-term and structural planning.
Seen as having a shrewd knowledge of production processes, Diess spent a year at BMW’s Rover site in 1999 before switching to the new Mini plant at Oxford. He was made Director of BMW Motorcycles in 2003 but switched back to cars to manage purchasing and the supplier network in 2007, then Research & Development in 2012.