The Volkswagen CEO will step down from his post in a surprise move, effective September 1.
The company announced on Friday that CEO Herbert Diess will be replaced by Oliver Blume, the head of Volkswagen’s Porsche performance car division (VLKAF).
Volkswagen, the world’s second-largest automaker, did not provide a reason for Diess’s departure.
But a Reuters report citing unnamed sources said the Porsche and Piech families, who between them own most of the voting rights in Volkswagen, pushed for a change at the helm. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that report.
It was a busy and challenging tenure for Diess. He took the reins of Volkswagen in 2018, following the “dieselgate” scandal that forced the company to pay massive fines in the United States and Europe for misleading emissions readings.
Still, he was able to put that scandal mostly in the company’s rearview mirror. And he focused on electric vehicles more than many established automakers, positioning Volkswagen for a major change.
VW has said it will spend €89 billion over the next five years on electric vehicle development, about half of its planned spending in that time, and aims for electric vehicles to account for a quarter of sales by the end of 2026. .
The number of battery electric vehicles VW sold nearly doubled in 2021 to nearly 453,000 worldwide, putting it third behind Tesla and General Motors in pure electric vehicles sold, and most sales of the latter came from a Chinese joint venture. VW surpassed all other automakers, including Tesla, in electric vehicle sales in Europe with 310,000 vehicles.
Tesla still sold more than twice as many pure electric vehicles as VW in 2021, and electric vehicles made up just 5% of the vehicles VW sold last year, but the shift in focus under Diess was important for the company’s future plans. .
“Herbert Diess played a key role in advancing the transformation of the company. The group and its brands are viable for the future; its innovative capabilities and purchasing power are strengthened,” said Hans Dieter Pötsch, Chairman of the Company’s Board of Directors, it’s a statement. . “He Not only steered the company through extremely rough waters, but he also implemented a fundamentally new strategy.”
But not everything was pink. While Volkswagen may be ahead of most traditional automakers in the planned switch to electric vehicles, it has fallen further behind Toyota in the race for total vehicle sales, a key metric in this sector.
Last year, Toyota reported 10.5 million total car sales in 2021, surpassing Volkswagen by more than 1.5 million. Before the pandemic in 2019, Volkswagen had surpassed Toyota by 200,000 cars with 10.9 million vehicles sold.
In addition, Volkswagen shares have also lagged behind Diess, gaining only about 10% since he was named chief executive in 2018, well below Toyota(TM)’s 60% gains at the time. So far this year, German-listed Volkswagen (VLKAF) shares are down 28%.
As part of the management shake-up, CFO Arno Antlitz will become COO.