Organizing a Turnaround @ VW

The year may be soon coming to a close, but the activities in Wolfsburg continue apace as Volkswagen Group tries to reorganize things, presumably so as to avoid having any untoward “cheats” going forward.

The year may be soon coming to a close, but the activities in Wolfsburg continue apace as Volkswagen Group tries to reorganize things, presumably so as to avoid having any untoward “cheats” going forward.

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Last Thursday, for example, Matthias Müller, Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft CEO, explained some new assignments for people who will be working for him by saying, "The team in the CEO's area of responsibility is almost complete, with excellent colleagues from within and outside the Group taking up the new posts. We are focusing in particular on the technological changes that impact the future of mobility – from electrification to the digital transformation. Our goal is to play a decisive role in shaping the transformation of the automobile. Our new lean structure will enable us to develop the considerable potential of our Company, its brands and employees to great effect. We will see faster decision-making and more efficient action."

Note that he didn’t say anything about becoming the world’s largest automobile manufacturer, a goal that tends to have untoward consequences for those who pursue volume at seemingly the expense of all else.

And it is interesting to underscore how he is dismantling a complex bureaucracy, putting in place a “lean structure.”

As for the most recent appointments, one person from outside the group is Dr. Ulrich Eichorn, who started his career at Ford, worked for the Group from 2000 to 2012, but left to become managing director of the German Association of the Automotive Industry.

Group Design is under the purview of Michael Mauer, whose background includes Mercedes, Saab, GM, and, since 2004, Porsche.

Group Sales is being helmed by Fred Kappler, who has been with VW since 1982, when he joined as a trainee.

Group Production has been assigned to a 35-year vet of the company, Wolfram Thomas.

But one of the assignments is of particular interest from the standpoint that it underscores a difference between what is becoming more the norm in U.S. companies and that of German companies.

Ralf-Gerhard Willner, is appointed head of Group Product and Modular Toolkit Strategy. Were there to be such a position at a U.S. firm, odds are the appointee would have an MBA. But Willner, who has a degree in automotive engineering, is a trained toolmaker.

Read that again: Trained toolmaker.

And he reports to the CEO.

Incredible.