VIENNA – Herbert Diess, the chief executive of Volkswagen, whose image has been damaged by the fallout from the German car emissions scandal, has resigned. In a surprise announcement on Friday, the Wolfsburg-based company said Diess would leave in September. 1 “by mutual agreement” with the board. No reason was given for his departure. Diess will be succeeded by Oliver Blume, CEO of the VW Porsche brand. Diess, who took over as CEO in 2018, has led the automaker at a time of significant change in the industry, including a shift to increased production of electric vehicles. His contract expires in 2025. Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch thanked Diess in a statement and praised his role in “stimulating the company’s transformation.” “Not only did he lead the company through very troubled waters, but he also implemented a fundamentally new strategy,” Poetsch said.
Diess focused on Volkswagen’s shift toward zero-emissions vehicles, but analysts say he wasn’t able to create change within the company and that the carmaker has fallen behind in some key developments, such as software implementation.
“With industry challenges accelerating and a growing number of new and fast-follower challengers, new management offers an opportunity to revisit strategy or jump-start stalled relationships,” analysts at Jefferies Equity Research said in a research note.
Shortly before his ouster was announced, Diess posted on LinkedIn about the difficulties facing the automaker — from Russia’s war in Ukraine to a shortage of computer chips that has stymied production. Despite those struggles, he said he was “very satisfied with our performance,” citing high demand for Volkswagen’s electric vehicles and a rebound in China after COVID-19 lockdowns.
“After a really stressful first half of 2022 many of us are looking forward to a well-deserved summer break,” his post said.
Diess reportedly has clashed with the company’s powerful labor representatives over issues including top personnel decisions. Workers hold an unusual amount of clout at Volkswagen, through requirements that worker representatives hold board seats and because the company’s home state of Lower Saxony holds a stake in the company.
Diesse was also followed by an emissions scandal. From BMW, Diess took over as head of the VW brand before being caught using software to circumvent US emissions requirements. for diesel vehicles in 2015. Volkswagen admits it installed software that activates pollution controls when testing cars and deactivates them during daily driving. This makes it appear that the cars meet strict US limits for pollutants known as nitrogen oxides. The scandal cost the company 31 billion euros ($34 billion) in fines and settlements. German prosecutors charged Diess and Poetsch in 2019 with stock manipulation for failing to tell investors in time about the looming scandal. The charges were later dropped in exchange for a 9 million euro ($9 million) payment, with neither pleading guilty. In Friday’s announcement, Volkswagen also said that the company’s chief financial officer, Arno Antlitz, would become its new CEO.