Friday 27 April 2018

Volkswagen names head of Porsche unit as new CEO amid emissions cheat scandal

Newly appointed Volkswagen chief executive Matthias Mueller looks on during a press statement after a meeting of Volkswagen's supervisory board in Wolfsburg, Germany (AP)
Newly appointed Volkswagen chief executive Matthias Mueller looks on during a press statement after a meeting of Volkswagen's supervisory board in Wolfsburg, Germany (AP)
A Volkswagen Passat CC car is tested for exhaust emissions, at a MOT (Ministry of Transport) testing station in Walthamstow, north-east London

Volkswagen has chosen the head of its Porsche division, Matthias Mueller, to succeed Martin Winterkorn as chief executive.

Volkswagen's supervisory board appointed the 62-year-old, a long-time company insider, following the resignation of Mr Winterkorn on Wednesday,

He took responsibility for the car emissions scandal, which involved software being used to cheat US emissions tests, but said he was not aware of any wrongdoing on his own part.

The US Environmental Protection Agency accused VW a week ago of installing the so-called "defeat device" in 482,000 cars sold in the United States.

VW later acknowledged that similar software exists in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide. The German government has said that those included cars in Europe.

Mr Mueller pledged to do everything to win back the trust of the public in the wake of the emissions scandal that erupted in the US.

He said after being appointed to the job that "we stand by our responsibility". He also said, however, that "carefulness is even more important than speed".

Mr Mueller said the company would introduce "even tougher compliance rules" and pledged to make VW "an even stronger company".

The company faces fines and class action lawsuits that could cost it billions.

"I am taking on this task at a time in which our company faces unprecedented challenges," Mr Mueller, 62, said at Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. "I have respect for this, but I am also facing this task with confidence."

"I will personally do everything to win back the trust of our customers, our employees, our partners, investors and the whole public," he said. "We stand by our responsibility. Occasionally, our and your patience will be tested, but ... carefulness is even more important than speed.

"What is decisive is that nothing like this ever happens at Volkswagen again," he said. "So we will introduce even tougher compliance and governance standards in the company."

He pledged to make Volkswagen an "an even stronger company".

Mr Winterkorn, who had been CEO since 2007, said he took responsibility for the "irregularities" found by US inspectors in VW's diesel engines, but insisted he had personally done nothing wrong.

Volkswagen offered few new details on the fallout from the scandal.

"The supervisory board has, on the basis of current information, recommended suspending some employees immediately until the whole case is cleared up," acting board chairman Berthold Huber said. "This has in part already happened."

He did not elaborate, and a statement from Volkswagen did not specify who the employees were, at what level or where they worked.

Mr Mueller brings long-standing experience of several of Volkswagen's 12 brands to his new job at the head of a sprawling group that has nearly 600,000 employees worldwide.

He was an apprentice toolmaker at Audi between finishing high school and studying computer science at Munich's University of Applied Sciences. Mr Mueller returned to Audi in 1978 and worked his way up to become head of product management for Audi, Seat and Lamborghini.

In 2007, he became head of product management for the Volkswagen Group. He has been Porsche chief executive since 2010 and a member of parent Volkswagen's management board since March.

Alongside Mr Mueller's appointment, the supervisory board also approved changes to the management structure - aimed, the company said, at scaling back complexity and strengthening brands and regions.

That includes a reorganisation of the North America business under Winfried Vahland, until now chairman of the board of directors at Czech-based brand Skoda.

The company said Michael Horn will remain as president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, but its US, Canada and Mexico markets will be "combined and significantly strengthened" to form a new "North America region".

Huber said the board would task a US law firm with helping investigate the scandal.

He also offered another apology.

"In the name of the supervisory board, I apologise in every way to our customers, the public, the authorities and investors," he said. "I ask all of you: Give Volkswagen a chance to make good the damage and win back lost trust."

Press Association

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