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VW appoints new CEO

Published:Friday | September 25, 2015 | 1:41 PM
New VW head Matthias Mueller.


Volkswagen's board appointed Matthias Mueller, the head of the group's Porsche unit, as CEO on Friday, handing a long-time company insider the task of trying to lead the world's top-selling automaker past a growing emissions rigging scandal.

The company also said it was suspending some employees and would reorganise its North America operations, after admitting it had cheated on diesel car emissions tests in the US through a piece of software.

The decisions come after the previous CEO, Martin Winterkorn, quit the job this week over the scandal, which has damaged the company's reputation and threatens its business.

The company faces fines and class action lawsuits that could cost it billions. It will also have to fix software it has said is in some 11 million cars worldwide, way more than the 482,000 identified last week by US authorities.

"I am taking on this task at a time in which our company faces unprecedented challenges," Mueller, 62 years old, said at Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. "I have respect for this, but I am also facing this task with confidence."

"I will personally do everything to win back the trust of our customers, our employees, our partners, investors and the whole public," he said. "We stand by our responsibility. Occasionally our and your patience will be tested, but ... carefulness is even more important than speed.

What is decisive is that nothing like this ever happens at Volkswagen again," he said. "So we will introduce even tougher compliance and governance standards in the company."

He pledged to make Volkswagen an "an even stronger company."

Winterkorn, who had been CEO since 2007, said he took responsibility for the "irregularities" found by US inspectors in VW's diesel engines, but insisted he had personally done nothing wrong.

On Friday, Volkswagen offered few new details on the fallout from the scandal.

"The supervisory board has, on the basis of current information, recommended suspending some employees immediately until the whole case is cleared up," acting board chairman Berthold Huber said. "This has in part already happened."

He did not elaborate, and a statement from Volkswagen did not specify who the employees were, at what level or where they worked.

Mueller brings long-standing experience of several of Volkswagen's 12 brands to his new job at the head of a sprawling group that has nearly 600,000 employees worldwide.

He was an apprentice toolmaker at Audi between finishing high school and studying computer science at Munich's University of Applied Sciences. Mueller returned to Audi in 1978 and worked his way up to become head of product management for Audi, Seat and Lamborghini.

In 2007, Mueller became head of product management for the Volkswagen Group. He has been Porsche chief executive since 2010 and a member of parent Volkswagen's management board since March.