Volkswagen’s Hallway Radio: Return of the head-huntress ignites rebellion in ranks

Reinhart on the radio

Reinhart on the radio

Red alert in Wolfsburg. Not because of dieselgate, people can learn to cope. Volkswagen folks are worried about rumors of an incoming Ariane Reinhart as head of VW’s HR. “This would be a true catastrophe,” a terrified voice on Volkswagen’s Hallway Radio told the Dailykanban today.

With the retirement of long-time HR chief Horst Neumann, the powerful job as head of Volkswagen Group’s personnel has gone vacant. Works council boss Bernd Osterloh was widely regarded as the Herr apparent, until he withdrew from the contest two weeks ago. Volkswagen needs to save a lot of money, and it will have to cut personnel, eventually. The HR chief would have to manage this painful process, and Osterloh is more comfortable fighting it.

Under the circumstances, it is hard to find a replacement, which made CEO Matthias Müller take on the job on a temporary basis until a replacement is found. Two days ago, Germany’s Manager Magazin wrote that Ariane Reinhart (not that @arianerinehart) is rumored to be a hot candidate for the job. Reinhart is HR chief of Germany’s auto supplier Continental. Before that, she ran the HR of Volkswagen’s luxury brand Bentley. She loves to be called “car-girl” by Germany’s sycophant press.

Manager Magazin most likely had the hot lead from Automobilwoche, the German version of Automotive News. Five days ago, Automobilwoche said that some at VW want a younger, and female, HR manager. Nothing wrong with that, Volkswagen has a long tradition seeking the company of younger females. Then, the magazine speculated:

“This profile fits Ariane Reinhart to a T. The top manager with a PhD was HR chief of Bentley. Due to other missions within the Volkswagen Group, she has an excellent reputation in Wolfsburg.”

This sentence caused the Hallway Radio to howl in shrill overdrive. According to VW’s rumor mill, Reinhart’s reputation in Wolfsburg is so excellent that the rumors of her return ignite rebellion in the ranks. Large parts of the HR department reportedly will ask to be transferred elsewhere, should Reinhart really take over. “Many will leave if their transfer is not approved,” a Hallway Radio reporter told the Dailykanban today.

Reinhart earned her horrific reputation by acting as the hatchet woman for deposed sales chief Christian Klingler, and as an enablerette for Klingler’s despotic regime of terror. According to the Hallway Radio, the Bentley job was only a cover for Reinhart. By Volkswagen’s vast standards, there isn’t much personnel to manage at Bentley. Her true job, that “other mission,” was to act as Klingler’s in-house headhuntress, and to fill positions with yes-men after Klingler’s routine firings of capable managers caused craters in VW’s management ranks.

According to the Hallway Radio, Reinhart introduced a speed-dating style to VW’s executive search: “She made her assessments in 30 seconds,” a voice on the radio says. “she put people in box, and then had a hard time finding the box.” At VW, Reinhart earned a reputation for institutionalized mobbing, for spreading toxic rumors behind people’s backs. The Klinger/Reinhart team was the epicenter of Volkswagen’s “fear culture,” the Hallway Radio says, a culture that got VW into the trouble it is in. “Dieselgate damaged Volkswagen,” a VW Manager told the Dailykanban, “but a Reinhart return would be the company’s end.”

Should Automobilwoche’s speculation be true, and should Volkswagen truly be desperate enough to get Reinhart back from Continental (cue sighs of relief in Hannover) then Volkswagen’s last hope will be the strong arm of the union. According to Germany’s Mitbestimmungs (co-determination) tradition, the Arbeitsdirektor (head of HR) of a co-determined corporation needs the “confidence of the company’s workforce,” and Reinhart clearly does not have all votes on her side. At Volkswagen, the HR boss is nominated by the IG Metall metalworkers union. We asked around, and nobody remembers Reinhart making speeches at union rallies.

Attachment: Incomplete list of alleged victims of the Klinger/Reinhart regime of terror, as compiled by Hallway Radio correspondents:

H. Schomburg (Sales Chief Volkswagen Commercial), S. Jacoby (CEO & President Volkswagen of America), Browning (CEO & President Volkswagen of America), G. Dorizas (President India), J. Sengpiel (Marketing VW Passenger), J. Hinrichs (Sponsorships), A. Hallmark (Director Sales Asia/Pacific), N. Garg (Managing Director VW Pkw India), U. Bodendiek (Director Sales VW Pkw India), A. Prinz (Managing Director Volkswagen Group Malaysia), Z. Kerschbaumer (Managing Director Volkswagen Group Malaysia), S. Thomas (Marketing VW Pkw), R. Berckhan (Vice President Sales & Marketing Volkswagen do Brazil)….

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.