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Volkswagen is shaking up its leadership. The automaker has announced that group chairman Herbert Diess will leave at the end of August. Porsche chairman Oliver Blume will take over the role (while preserving his existing position) as of September 1st. The company didn’t explain Diess’ exit, but said the move was the result of a “mutual agreement.”
Diess has a somewhat mixed track record. He replaced former chief Martin Winterkorn as the Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal unfolded in 2015, and was meant to help VW move past a dark chapter in its history. In 2019, though, German prosecutors charged Diess with stock manipulation for allegedly delaying reports on the cheating to minimize the impact on company shares. Diess’ attorney contended that the executive joined VW too late to understand the ramifications of the scandal, but the allegations still tarnished the leader’s reputation.
At the same time, there’s little doubt that Diess oversaw an important moment in VW’s history. He helped the company start its transition to EVs and self-driving cars. He also prepared for declining car ownership by fostering mobility services. Much of VW’s business still depends on conventional combustion engine vehicles, but it now expects EVs to represent half of its sales by 2030. If the Dieselgate-era VW was clinging to the past, Diess’ company was bracing itself for the future.
Don’t expect a radical change under Blume. The new chairman will “press ahead” with the transformation that largely began under Diess, according to VW. Blume may serve as a custodian in that regard, but that won’t necessarily be a problem if the company continues to expand and improve its EV lineup.
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