He was on an ejection seat, but his exit was still a surprise, not to say a thunderbolt. Herbert Diess, the emblematic and controversial boss of Volkswagen (VW), will take office on April 1ah September, the German car giant announced after a meeting of its board of directors on Friday, July 22nd. Mr. Diess, aged 63, will be succeeded by Oliver Blume, 54, the current CEO of Porsche, one of the twelve brands of the VW Group.
The press release announcing the departure of Mr. Diess can certainly indicate that it was decided “from a joint agreement”, The formula should not be misleading. The man, who took over as head of VW in spring 2018 and is known for his brittle language and harsh management, has been in the hot seat for more than two years.
“Breaking up old encrusted structures”
In June 2020, he narrowly saved his job after apologizing for accusing certain members of the supervisory board “illegal” Information leaked to the press. Six months later he caused an uproar in the group by publishing a long forum on the LinkedIn social network entitled: “This is how we are changing Volkswagen. In this biting text, he particularly regretted that he had not succeeded “Breaking up old encrusted structures” the company, “especially at the group headquarters in Wolfsburg” (Lower Saxony). The charge was particularly opposed by the very powerful Works Council, the works council of group employees controlled by IG Metall.
A new storm broke out in September 2021 when Mr. Diess indicated during a supervisory board meeting that there were 30,000 too many jobs in the group, which has 660,000 worldwide, about half of them in Germany. Given the emotions that his statements aroused, he had to specify that it was just one “extreme scenario”in case the company fails to complete its transformation towards electric and digital, the main task for which this former BMW employee was selected in 2015 to lead the Volkswagen brand, then three years later the group.
His image continued to deteriorate in the fall of 2021, when he announced he would not be attending a staff meeting to go to a meeting with investors in the US. If he finally backed down, this episode had done a little more to cement his ties with the key human resources committee and its new president, Daniela Cavallo, the first woman appointed to this highly strategic position, in office since spring 2021 deteriorate. .
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