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VW ousts Mueller, elevates Diess to chairman

by Byron Hurd

VW announces new management announced alongside a corporate restructuring.

Volkswagen announced Thursday that Dr. Herbert Diess will replace Matthias Mueller as Group chairman, confirming rumors that the former's time at the helm of the world's largest automaker was nearing its end.

The change in leadership is only part of a larger restructuring effort that has been underway (at least in part) since shortly after the full scope of the company's diesel emissions fiasco came to light. The new VW Group will consist of six business units (three of which will be brand units) along with a group dedicated to China.

Thursday's announcement marks the first major steps in implementing that new structure.

Brands are being subdivided into four separate groups: Volume, premium and super premium. The volume group will consist of Volkswagen, Skoda and Seat. Premium will incorporate Audi, Lamborghini and Ducati. Super premium comprises Bentley, Bugatti and Porsche.

The fourth group, truck and bus, isn't a different tier so much as an entirely different sales channel. This includes VW's commercial vehicle offerings, produced under the MAN, Scania and Volkswagen brands.

"In a phase of profound upheaval in the automotive industry, it is vital for Volkswagen to pick up speed and make an unmistakable mark in e-mobility, the digitalization of the automobile and transportation as well as new mobility services," Diess said in the announcement.

While each individual holding company will likely still allow semi-autonomous operation of the brands under its umbrella, the increased interdependence should allow each business unit to respond more quickly and efficiently to larger market changes, rather than forcing each brand to develop independent strategies as market conditions fluctuate.