Mueller at Geneva in 2017 - why is he apparently getting the boot?

Mueller at Geneva in 2017 - why is he apparently getting the boot?

A mystery press release from Volkswagen which said: "Volkswagen AG considers a further development of the management structure of the group, which would also be associated with personnel changes in the board of management and with changes in the specific responsibilities of the board of management members. This could also include a change in the position of the chairman of the board of management.

It continued: "On the basis of these considerations, the chairman of the supervisory board [of VAG] is currently in discussions with certain members of the supervisory board and of the board of management. Matthias Mueller showed his general willingness to contribute to the changes. It is currently open whether the considerations and discussions will lead to a further development of the management structure or to personnel changes in the board of management of [VAG].

Something similar from Porsche said: "Should personnel changes in the board of management of [VAG] occur, this could also lead to corresponding personnel changes in the executive board of Porsche Automobil Holding SE.

The answer, according to Bloomberg, is a surprise management shake-up that is set to promote current VW brand manager Herbert Diess to CEO, replacing Mueller, who navigated the carmaker through its diesel crisis.

The supervisory board will vote on the change in top leadership at a meeting on Friday, according to Bloomberg sources.

Mueller, 64, took over in 2015 and has worked inside the VW structure his entire adult life, and has two years left on his current contract.

Bloomberg noted the news posed more questions than it answered.

Giving Diess, 59, the top job would elevate a senior executive from VW ranks but someone who was not at the automaker when the diesel cheating took place. Diess joined VW from BMW AG in mid 2015, shortly before the scandal erupted publicly. As the executive overseeing VW's biggest unit, he has routinely clashed with powerful labour leaders as he has sought to cut costs and simplify the byzantine structure of the carmaker.

"I don't see an obvious trigger that would have prompted this," Bankhaus Lampe analyst Christian Ludwig told Bloomberg.

Bloomberg noted Mueller had seen VW through the blows (recalls, buybacks, fines) of the scandal while aggressively expanding into electric cars. Its profit margin climbed to 7.4% of sales last year from 6% in 2015, when the crisis hit. The carmaker also managed to fend off Toyota to retain its status as the world's largest automaker.

He also sought to overhaul Volkswagen's rigid top-down management structure, delegating more responsibility to its brand and regional chiefs. The complexity extends to its main shareholder, Porsche Automobil Holding SE, where VAG chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch serves as the CEO and Mueller as a top executive.

Some thanks, huh?

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