Michael Horn, the chief of Volkswagen’s Americas unit had a close call – he’s not on the ousted senior executive list but the VW veteran will have to report to a new boss as the brand is reshaped into place.
Winfried Wahland, the man that used to cater for the future of VW AG’s Czech affordable brand Skoda is now the director of the new North American Region office, now ready to occupy a place in the Supervisory Board. Horn was cited among the proposed senior managers to be ousted following the aftermath of the major diesel emissions cheating scandal. VW rigged diesel-powered cars in the US (and across the world, we subsequently found out) to dupe emissions tests into believing they were low pollutants – in real-world conditions it allowed engines to produce up to 40 times the level allowed for smog-causing oxides of nitrogen. The management reshape started last week when CEO Martin Winterkorn presented his resignation as he accepted responsibility.
The management shakeup in North America is also a reflection of the earlier problems in the region – where the namesake VW brand had seen years of negative sales amid a rapidly rising auto market. Horn itself is not very old in his position – after spending 26 years with VW he was named last year the VW of America chief as the group asked for a reversal of the sliding US sales. Just as his predecessor, Horn focused on the diesel-powered models as a way of standing out among the mass of Toyotas, Hondas or Chevrolets. They billed their 2.0-liter “clean” diesel as a way of delivering lower pollution, higher mileage and performance above hybrid models.