Porsche chief executive officer Matthias Müller is expected to be named CEO of Volkswagen AG, the Wall Street Journal and other sources reported Thursday morning.
Müller, 62, has led Porsche since Oct. 1, 2010, and jumpstarted the sports-car brand’s expansion around the world. He replaces Martin Winkerkorn, who stepped down Wednesday amid the company’s worsening diesel scandal. At least three more executives are also expected to be fired, including Volkswagen’s US chief and the heads of Audi and Porsche research and development. Both brands are divisions of VW. A US spokesman wouldn’t confirm the reports. An official announcement is expected at VW’s board meeting on Friday.
Müller’s ascension caps a stunning week of turmoil for Volkswagen, which manipulated software to make its diesel-powered vehicles appear cleaner during testing that they are in real-world driving. The charges were revealed last week by the EPA, which cited the work of researchers at West Virginia University. About 482,000 vehicles are affected in the United States, which will be subject to recall, and VW estimates about 11 million of its vehicles around the world have the rigged software.
The well-regarded Müller was viewed as a front-runner for the job even before Winterkorn stepped down. Before helming Porsche, he oversaw all vehicle projects globally for VW from 2007-2010. Previously, he was in charge of the Audi and Lamborghini product lines, and earlier in his career was responsible for the Audi A3 program in the 1990s. He joined Audi in 1977. He’s trained as a toolmaker and studied information technology in Munich. His last name is sometimes spelled Mueller in English.
Müller faces immediate challenges as he takes over VW’s sprawling 78-year-old industrial empire, including recalls and regulatory actions around the world. In the US alone, the company faces a fine of up to $18 billion.
VW, an industrial symbol of Germany, is also far larger than any unit Müller has run in his career. While Porsche sold 189,849 vehicles in 2014 globally, it’s one of many VW brands. Collectively they sold 5.04 million vehicles through the first six months of this year, making Volkswagen the world’s largest automaker.