Volkswagen Australia managing director John White will retire after about two-and-a-half years in the hot seat, effective October 30.
His replacement is a familiar face to the local automotive scene, former Porsche Cars Australia sales and marketing director Michael Bartsch (pictured above).
Bartsch, an Australian, joins Volkswagen’s local arm after a high profile decade-long stint in the US, where he served first as executive vice-president and COO of Porsche Cars North America, and recently as the vice-president of Infiniti America — that company’s key market.
Bartsch left that post after about 18-months in February this year “to pursue other interests”. The move came shortly after Infiniti’s worldwide president Johan de Nysschen left to run Cadillac.
It makes Bartsch a well-credentialed replacement for incumbent White (pictured below), a former president and CEO of VW Group Canada. White is taking early retirement and returning to his native Canada for “family reasons”.
White and Bartsch will commence a handover of responsibilities during October with Mr White concluding his duties with Volkswagen Group Australia on October 30.
Bartsch’s return to his native Australia comes about two years after he was signposted to come back home to run Porsche Cars Australia.
PCA named Bartsch as its managing director in May 2013, however he subsequently elected to remain in the US and was subsequently hired to lead Infiniti in the United States and Canada.
White leaves Volkswagen in excellent shape in Australia, with the company consistently posting record sales numbers this year. To the end of June, the company had sold 32,010 vehicles, up 12.1 per cent — making it the nation’s eighth top-selling brand, hot on the heels of Nissan (32,950).
White has previously indicated a desire to get VW into the nation’s top-five, an ambition reflected for instance in the aggressive range of product upgrades announced out of nowhere last month that took many in the industry by surprise.
White also placed emphasis on building out Volkswagen’s service infrastructure, after the company experienced a few years of strong sales growth. He previously acknowledged that the sales side grew faster than the aftersales side of the business, reflected in negative customer satisfaction scores in key surveys.
White previously told this reporter that: “Anybody can just crank sales up, but you’ve got to be able to take care of your customers, and that’s one of the things that happened to us, we grew really fast and the infrastructure at one point didn’t keep up, now its keeping up, we’ve got huge investment being made and a very well-defined service strategy".