The company announced its North America Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Browning has left the company for personal reasons and is to be replaced by 51-year-old Michael Horn.
While Volkswagen said that Browning is leaving for personal reasons, several sources with knowledge of the situation said it was his inability to keep VW on pace to meet aggressive U.S. sales targets that caused his departure.
Browning, 54, a former executive at General Motors and Ford, had been with VW since 2010. Volkswagen said on Thursday that Browning will return to Britain, where he is from.
Horn, a German national, has spent 23 years at Volkswagen and is seen as the sales architect needed to increase U.S. sales to 800,000 for the VW Group by 2018. On the other hand, having been sales executive for GM in Europe and managing director of Jaguar when it was owned by Ford left Browning ill-prepared for the inner workings of VW in Wolfsburg, a source commented.
Horn since 2009 has been the head of Volkswagen global after sales, which covers parts and service at VW dealerships. Horn’s appointment becomes effective January 1.
Under Browning, U.S. sales of Volkswagen doubled, including an increase of 31 % in 2012. But this year, the Volkswagen brand has seen its U.S. sales slip 5 % while Audi’s sales are up 13 % through November. During Browning’s tenure, VW opened a new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it makes the Passat sedan.