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Was New VW Chief Tasked With Turning Poor Car Sales Picture Around?

After two tumultuous years, highlighted by the Dieselgate scandal, Volkswagen has decided to change the person at the top. The automaker has tapped Scott Keogh, CEO and president of Audi, with the task of rebooting sales at VW. Hinrich Woebcken, current president, will remain as an adviser to the board.


Ulrich Woebcken, the leader who brought Volkswagen through the worst moments of the Dieselgate crisis, will step down as the chief executive officer and president, will step down on Nov. 1 to become an advisor to the automaker.

Takes Over Officially On Nov. 1

In his place, VW today chose Scott Keogh, president, and chief exec Audi will take over at Volkswagen Group of America (VWoA), the reins at the carmaker on Nov. 1. He will also have responsibility for the Volkswagen brand.

In a statement announcing the change, Herbert Diess, Volkswagen Group chief executive officer, praised the new top VWoA exec, as he announced the move. Keogh, he said, “led Audi to excellence in the U.S.

And, now with the tagging of Keogh for the top spot at VW, Diess said Keogh would “build upon the momentum and implement the next stage in the growth strategy as we continue to develop Volkswagen into a more relevant player in North America.”

Formerly A Global Purchasing Officer

Woebcken, a former BMW exec, was a global purchasing official before he was named the head of the North American region after Michael Winterkorn left VW due to the Dieselgate scandal. Winterkorn’s firing came in the early weeks of the scandal, and he has been a person of interest in conspiracy and other criminal charges. Reports during the last couple of years indicated the Winterkorn knew about the diesel emissions scam before it was made public to the public and stockholders. Meantime, prosecutors have several times raided his home and office to ensure that any pertinent information would remain intact. In the U.S., Winterkorn will face a four-count indictment, including conspiracy, if he should come into this country. Winterkorn is also a target of German prosecutors, though, there have yet to be any charges.

Interestingly, under Woebcken the automaker entered the very hot SUV and crossover market with the all-new Atlas, a three-row SUV and the 2018 Tiguan, a stretched three-row crossover. It was an extended version of the Tiguan LTD, which continued to sell side-by-side with the newer version.

Also, Woebcken was in charge of VWoA as the automaker made ambitious plans to develop and introduce a new family of electrics at VW, the electric I.D. family. Ultimately, the I.D. series may have as many as 25 electrics by 2030. Currently, the first five models are planned by 2022, include, the I.D. Hatch; the I.D. Buzz, and the I.D. Vizzion.

Was He A Victim Of The Sales Fall-Off

And, speaking of cars, it looks like Woebcken may be a victim of the fall-off in car sales. For more than a year, cars have been selling. However, the sales have been weak, especially in the intermediate, compact, and luxury vehicles. Of course, it’s not as if car sales have fallen into a hole, staying there. Sales have weakened over time, as customers moved out of cars and into SUVs. It seems as if SUVs are selling themselves. Indeed, the intermediate and full-sized SUV market has been and still is red-hot. And, though VW sales are up 5.5 percent, year to date, through September, many of those sales have been SUVs or crossovers.

Sales of the company’s brand-new Jetta, introduced only recently, have continued to slump 33 percent, while Passat and Golf sales are off 34 and 38 percent, respectively. Meantime, sales of the Atlas, three-row SUV, and the restyled Tiguan make up about 40 percent of the of profit in the automakers till.

Doubtless, the reason for the change atop VW has a lot to do with the sales picture. Keogh has been at Audi’s helm as VW’s luxury subsidiary has maintained an excellent track record of sales. With September’s sales increase, Audi has recorded more than 70 months of record sales. The funny thing is that if you look at Audi’s sales picture, you see that much of its success is due, of course, to SUVs, but, car sales have held their own, too. So, it is possible that the board has looked at Keogh and his sales record and has drafted him to help right the sales picture at VW.

Has Worked For VW For 12 Years

Keogh moved over to Audi as its chief marketing officer in 2006. He received into the division’s top spot in 2012. During his tenure, Keogh helped the division double its sales over the 2010-15 period.

Meantime, Mark Del Rosso will succeed Keogh at Audi on Dec. 1. Currently, he is president and chief exec of Audi of America. Bentley will name his replacement in the future. Del Rosso moved over to Audi in 2008 where he was chief operating officer. Previously, he worked at Toyota Motor Corp.

Sources: Research, Reuters