Volkswagen Group appoints new CEO amid major restructuring

VW's Herbert Diess and Matthias Müller

VOLKSWAGEN is replacing chief executive Matthias Mueller along with several other top managers and announcing a new structure it said would enable faster decision-making as autonomous and electric cars transform the industry.

Diess, a former BMW AG executive, has had the hard task of negotiating restructuring and cost-cutting with German worker representatives since becoming head of the Volkswagen brand in 2015.

With that announcement, the VW Group has also announced a major restricting of its brands, dividing them up into six new business areas.

Human resources head Karlheinz Blessing is being replaced by Gunnar Kilian, until now an official with the company's works council - or employee representatives - and Porsche sports vehicle division head Oliver Blume is being promoted to the top management body of the entire group, Volkswagen said.

Porsche Chief Executive Oliver Blume is going to join the management board of VW Group, one of the sources stated.

This management reshuffling comes in the aftermath of VW's diesel emissions scandal that saw the company admit to using software, known as a defeat device, in the 2009-2015 Audi A3 and the Volkswagen Beetle, Golf, Jetta and Passat TDI cars with 2.0-liter diesel engines to trick emissions tests.

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Dieselgate has so far cost VW more than 25 billion euros ($31 billion) in buybacks, fines and compensation, and the carmaker remains mired in legal woes at home and overseas.

"We will emphatically address the special challenges that lie ahead of us, especially in electromobility, digitisation and new mobility services", he told a press conference at the group's Wolfsburg headquarters. The strategy also mandates that the automaker introduce 22 new electric models by the middle of the next decade.

The new leader of the Volkswagen Group says his priority is to make the world's biggest auto company ready for a rapid technological change.

Dressed in a dark blue suit and a burgundy tie, Diess and chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch were the only executives to field questions about the carmaker, even though VW announced a raft of new appointments on Thursday. Inquiries about the diesel VW scandal is still going on.

Shares in Volkswagen rose 0.8 percent to 178.04 euros by 0800 GMT, against a 0.5 percent rise for the STOXX 600 automotive index.

The carmaker remains mired in legal woes overseas and in its home market, where it also faces possible diesel bans in some smog-clogged inner cities, a prospect that has already depressed resale prices to the chagrin of millions of owners of diesel vehicles. In addition to his job, he will directly oversee vehicle information technology as well as group development and research. The last resigned after "diesel scandal".

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