The boss-in-waiting of Volkswagen AG’s new North American region, current Skoda chairman-of-the-board Winfried Vahland, has quit the company before even taking up the recently created post.
On November 1, Vahland was slated to move into the new role, running a region that encompasses the US, Canada and Mexico. US VW sales had been below expectations before the ‘dieselgate’ affair even blew into the public spotlight.
Instead, Vahland — also the former president and CEO of Volkswagen in China and a 25-year Volkswagen veteran — has walked, a decision that Volkswagen says stems from conflicting ideas on the organisation of the new US region (internal politicking) and not explicitly with the diesel NOx emissions drama.
“Dr. Winfried Vahland is leaving the company at his own request. Prof. Vahland will therefore not be taking up the position of overall responsibility for the North American Region (NAR),” the company said.
“Differing views on the organisation of the new Group region have led to this decision; this decision is expressly not related to current events on the issue of diesel engines.”
The decision to create the NAR to be run by Vahland — who would have been reported to by incumbent Volkswagen Group of America chief Michael Horn — was ostensibly part of a plan to put a greater focus on global regions and Group brands and decentralising authority.
It was part of the shake-up that followed the resignation of Volkswagen’s chief executive Martin Winterkorn, who fell on his sword after the company admitted installing software designed to cheat diesel air-quality tests in 11 million Volkswagen, Skoda, Seat and Audi vehicles worldwide.
From the outside, the loss of Vahland seems significant. Our sources say he’s well-liked and respected internally, and has overseen Skoda’s recent massive growth out of the Czech Republic.
The recently appointed CEO of Volkswagen Group (some suggest Vahland was an outside runner at this post), Matthias Müller, said: “In the last 25 years, Prof. Vahland made a great contribution to the company. We respect his decision and thank him for his exceptional performance”.
The news follows our report this morning that at least 30 managers were reportedly involved in the Volkswagen “dieselgate” affair, which saw the company install special software on its EA189-engined diesel cars to fraudulently pass emissions testing.
Read all about the Volkswagen Group diesel emissions saga here.