The recently named head of Volkswagen’s North American business has left the company before taking up his new job — adding disruption as the company faces a scandal over rigging the results of emissions testing of its diesel vehicles.
It means that one of the company’s most experienced managers will not be coming to lead the company’s response in the United States as it faces possible heavy fines from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Volkswagen’s Skoda division made the announcement about its chairman, Winfried Vahland, in a news release on Wednesday.
The release said that Vahland will not be moving to take over his new position carrying overall responsibility for North America because of “differing views on the organization of the new group region.” It said his decision to quit was not related to the scandal over the diesel engines.
On Sept. 24, Volkswagen announced a reorganization of its North American operations that put Vahland — the former head of VW’s crucial China business — over country executives including Volkswagen’s U.S. chief, Michael Horn. The announcement came the same day Volkswagen named Matthias Mueller as CEO after Martin Winterkorn stepped down from the job.
VW had said Horn would remain as president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, but its U.S., Canada and Mexico markets would be “combined and significantly strengthened” to form a new “North America region” led by Vahland.
Mueller thanked Vahland for 25 years of service and a “great contribution to the company.”
“We respect his decision and thank him for his exceptional performance,” Mueller was quoted as saying in the Skoda statement.
Skoda, based in the Czech Republic, is one of VW’s brands, which also include Audi, SEAT, Lamborghini and Bentley.
Volkswagen on Wednesday denied a report by newsweekly Der Spiegel, which reported based on anonymous sources that at least 30 managers were involved in the decision to install software that disabled emissions controls when vehicles were driven under normal conditions but turned the controls on when the cars were being tested. Volkswagen said the number of managers reported “lacks any basis.”
CEO Mueller has said that “a few” managers intervened in the engine control software but held off saying how many, pending an investigation by the U.S. law firm Jones Day.