Volkswagen’s new CEO: We must change faster

Volkswagen's new CEO: We must change faster
The Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Volkswagen’s new CEO said Friday that the automaker must “significantly step up the pace” as it pushes ahead with electric and self-driving vehicle technologies and offers transportation as a digitally driven service.

Herbert Diess said that a newly announced management structure bundling the company’s dozen brands in just three divisions would mean faster decisions as the company keeps up with sweeping change in how people use cars.

The 59-year-old Diess was named on Thursday as the German automaker’s new CEO, replacing Matthias Mueller. Mueller had been tapped as CEO unexpectedly in September 2015 when Martin Winterkorn resigned over the scandal in which the company had rigged cars to cheat on U.S. emissions tests.

As CEO, Diess will also be responsible for the company’s mass market brands Volkswagen, SEAT and Skoda, as well as digital services and vehicle software. Luxury group Audi will be placed in a separate premium division and high-end brands Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini in a super-premium group.

Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch said Diess would have a chief operating officer to oversee day to day issues at the volume segment so that he would not lose focus on the company has a whole. That executive has not been named.

Speaking at a news conference at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, Diess said the company’s goal would be “to forcefully and with focus press ahead” with the company’s Strategy 2025. The plan involves adding 30 battery-powered vehicles by 2025 and tapping new revenue possibilities by focusing on offering temporary use of autos as a service.

Diess came to Volkswagen in 2015 as head of the core nameplate from competitor BMW, where he was head of vehicle development. His first job was hammering out a 2016 cost-cutting agreement with the company’s powerful labor representatives. The deal foresees raising German factory productivity by 25 percent and dropping 23,000 jobs through attrition but expressly rules out layoffs.


David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.