Volkswagen CEO to remain in the driver’s seat, but with less control

Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess will remain in the driver’s seat, but with less control in his hands, under the company’s latest revamp.

The German automaker also announced on Wednesday that its supervisory board has changed its leadership structure after a shake-up earlier this year, and will name Fredrik Adler as Volkswagen’s new head of personnel.

The changes underscore Volkswagen’s struggle to contain an emissions-cheating scandal and to attract a younger clientele, both of which Mr. Diess acknowledged in a new report that was published Wednesday.

Speaking at the family-owned Schaeffler Group, Mr. Diess emphasized the fact that Volkswagen is now embracing younger drivers and is planning to make its cars and powertrain technology more appealing to younger consumers.

He noted that almost 200,000 young people have joined the company since July 2017, when an emissions scandal involving VW’s diesel-powered diesel cars broke. He said that many of the new recruits were not experienced auto mechanics but were more interested in online and technical content.

He also pointed to the introduction of new models in the USA in 2018, including a new Golf and the Tiguan crossover, which he said had driven U.S. sales higher by 14 percent for the year.

In his report, Mr. Diess argued that Germany had come up short in attracting younger customers.

“We’re looking for bold and self-governing positions. We want to work hard on fast-moving crises and customer experiences,” he said.

In an interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday, Mr. Diess also said that an older workforce had been the main reason behind a provision that would give four of the 11 senior executives their bonuses deferred to 2018. The provision was one of four measures announced last month to create an independent board who would ensure that the success of Mr. Diess’s strategy were not overshadowed by mistakes related to the emissions scandal, which stretched back to 2009.

The four senior executives who the provision was aimed at were Mr. Diess, Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess, VW group chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch, and Volkswagen group finance chief Frank Witter. A fifth executive would not get his bonus because of the provision, Mr. Diess said, but declined to identify him.

The four are among 20 executives who get a $15 million compensation package because of the proposal. Mr. Diess would get $10 million in total.

A Volkswagen spokesman, Martin Soderfel, said that the payment to Mr. Diess, who was appointed in 2017 and who has been CEO since 2016, was completely to ensure his contracts would be fulfilled.

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