Volkswagen CEO Diess steps down, replaced by Porsche chief

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CEO of the Volkswagen Group, Herbert Diess, has agreed to leave his post “by mutual agreement” effective September 1, 2022.

He will be replaced by Oliver Blume, currently the CEO of the Porsche marque. According to the automaker, Blume will continue to be Porsche’s CEO even after taking over as Group CEO and “after a possible IPO” for the luxury sports car brand.

As part of the management reshuffle, Arno Antlitz, the group’s chief financial officer will also become the company’s chief operating officer.

Rumours of tension in the boardroom had swirled around the company for a while, with reports indicating there was unrest about Diess’ EV strategy and his style of management. All seemed to resolved, though, when Diess had his contract extended to 2025.

Hans Dieter Pötsch, chairman of Volkswagen’s supervisory board, paid tribute to Diess stating “not only did he steer the company through extremely turbulent waters, but he also implemented a fundamentally new strategy”.

Diess joined the Wolfsburg-based automaker in 2015 as the head of its core Volkswagen passenger car brand, and a few months later the Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal was revealed to the world.

As brand and later group CEO Diess championed a pivot away from diesel engines to electric vehicles. At the time only Tesla and other startups were fully committed to EVs.

Under his direction, Volkswagen invested billions of euros to develop MEB, a mainstream EV architecture, with dedicated production facilities.

MEB currently serves as the basis for the Volkswagen ID.3, ID.4, ID.Buzz, as well as Cupra Born, Skoda Enyaq iV, Audi Q4 e-tron, amongst others. It will also be utilised by Ford for at least two Europe-focussed models starting in 2023.

As legislative and public sentiment turned towards electric cars, Audi and Porsche joined forces to develop PPE, a premium EV platform to tackle Tesla.

Diess began his working career at Bosch before being hired by BMW where he rose from being head of long-term planning to be the company’s head of purchasing and, later, development. In between he ran the car maker’s UK factories and was a director of BMW Motorcycles.

On the other hand his successor Oliver Blume is a Volkswagen Group lifer. Long seen as Diess’ eventual replacement, Blume started at the firm as a trainee at Audi in 1994 after completing a mechanical engineering degree. At Audi his focus was largely on the production side.

He then spent time working as a product planner at the Seat and Volkswagen brands before becoming the Porsche’s head of production in 2013, and then its CEO in 2015.

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