Michael Horn, U.S.A.-chief of embattled automaker Volkswagen, will receive some good news, and some bad news. The good news is that he won’t get a chaperone. The bad news is that he’s left in the cold, to face the big bad American wolves all by his freezing lonesome.
According to Volkswagen’s hallway radio, plans to establish an overseer for Volkswagen’s North American market have been ditched. U.S. CEO Michael Horn will continue to report straight to Wolfsburg, we hear. Originally, former Skoda-chief Winfried Vahland was supposed to run the North American show, from Mexico all the way to Canada, a plan unveiled first by the hallway radio via Dailykanban. Four days later, it was made official. Horn was to keep his role, but the new script turned him into a sidekick.
Two weeks after receiving top billing, Winfried Vahland bailed. A tearjerker story was spread, claiming that Vahland submitted to the wishes of his wife, who allegedly did not want to move from the Czech Republic to Washington, DC’s, suburbia. That red herring was quickly sniffed-out by the hallway radio, reporting via the Dailykanban that Vahland quit because he would not get a seat on the Volkswagen Group’s board. This version quickly became the accepted narrative.
The heartbreaking wife-of-stressed-manager stor0y probably was invented by the same people who make up “manager burnout” sagas for the rising number of suspended dieselgate-involved. The hallway radio can see right through it.
Four days ago, the hallway radio reported via the Dailykanban that VW’s China chief Jochem Heizmann was in play to fill the post vacated by Vahland. It was reported that Heizmann could run NA temporarily, along-side to his China duties. This plan did not get traction, says the hallway radio. All ideas to establish a North America leader have been abandoned , the radio says. Either Volkswagen could not find a capable manager sufficiently untainted by the dieselgate scandal, or it could not find volunteers eager to preside over a minefield, and to give depositions for years to come.
In executive dining rooms, and after-hours watering holes such as the bar of the Wolfsburg Rothehof, some Volkswagen executives muse whether “Michael Horn is the sacrificial lamb, whose job it is to accept all guilt in America, in exchange for a platinum parachute,” as a Volkswagen manager said. As the night progresses, some even ask whether Volkswagen should abandon the U.S. completely. Some simply cry into their red wine.
Standard disclaimer: Hallway radio reports reflect the current buzz of Volkswagen’s internal rumor mill, and as such the reports are not always correct. No responsibility is taken for the correctness of this information. However, the radio has a very high batting average, so far, at least.