#Dieselgate, widespread management blight at VW, and a rise of the blissfully ignorant

Dürheimer: Will rise fast if clean

Dürheimer: Will rise fast if clean

Inside of Volkswagen, the question is no longer how many defeat devices there are. The big topic in the hallways is who will fall, and who will rise. The number of fallen people grows by the day, while the number of people to rise becomes increasingly capacity constrained. Said a harried Volkswagen manager to the Dailykanban over the weekend:

“Managers untainted by the scandal have a clear shot at top positions. The trouble is finding the untainted.”

One of the top candidates for a career jump is Wolfgang Dürheimer, at least according to Volkswagen’s hallway radio. For 10 years, Dürheimer was R&D chief of Porsche. After a short intermezzo at Bentley and Bugatti, Dürheimer was crowned R&D chief of Audi in 2012. Nine months later, he was sent back to Bentley & Bugatti, and the story was leaked that he was responsible for a lack of innovation at the Bavarian luxury marque, something the short time he was in charge made hard to believe. At Audi, Dürheimer was replaced by Ulrich Hackenberg.

Two weeks ago, in a complete decapitation of Volkswagen’s tech leadership, Hackenberg was suspended as a prime suspect in the dieselgate scandal, and with him Volkswagen’s current R&D chief Heinz-Jakob Neusser, and Porsche’s R&D chief Wolfgang Hatz. In critical times, Volkswagen’s engineers don’t know who to follow, or who to trust.

With that big a vacuum at the top, Volkswagen’s hallway radio sees Dürheimer as having the choice between Hackenberg’s job at Audi, or Neusser’s job at Volkswagen – if Dürheimer is among the few at Volkswagen who never came close to a defeat device.

Schwarzenbauer - will he come back?

Schwarzenbauer: Might come back, now that Klingler is gone

Another possible comeback is Peter Schwarzenbauer. The hallway radio says that Dürheimer, Volkswagen AG’s new boss Matthias Müller, and Audi’s former sales chief Schwarzenbauer are “very close.” Schwarzenbauer left Audi for BMW at around the same time Dürheimer did. The hallway radio says that Bavarian “Spezis” (buddies) Schwarzenbauer and Dürheimer were used as scapegoats by a vindictive Christian Klingler. Six weeks ago, the hallway radio said that Volkswagen chief Herbert Diess took a liking to Schwarzenbauer when both were at BMW. Asked to come back, Schwarzenbauer supposedly answered that he won’t, unless Klingler goes. Klingler is gone, and the hallway radio sees Schwarzenbauer as taking the North America job that was abruptly vacated by Winfried Vahland. BMW-boardmember Schwarzenbauer will only come if he gets a Volkswagen Group board level posting, the hallway radio says.

Confused? It will get worse.

At a little less loftier level, the hallway radio is buzzing about what dominoes will fall next in Volkswagen Group’s sales functions. There is a long list of positions where hated Christian Klingler put his acolytes, and many may follow the deposed despot. The hallway radio’s hitparade lists the Volkswagen chiefs in Canada, Mexico, and India, the sales chiefs of Volkswagen China and South America, and a few more, including the current Volkswagen Germany sales chief Thomas-Werner Zahn, also a Klinger protégé.

A comeback is seen for Klingler-victims Fred Kappler, who is currently languishing in parts, and Peter Maiwald, currently wasting away in aftersales, where they may be sufficiently untainted.

A job in parts is no guarantee for being free of defeat device suspicion, as the case of Falko Rudolph shows. The head of VW’s sprawling parts plant in Kassel, Germany, was suspended on Thursday. As it turns out, he oversaw the development of diesel engines at VW between 2006 and 2010. D as in diesel, D as in dead.

Meanwhile, the net is being cast wider and wider. Volkswagen’s French offices were raided, same happened in Italy at VW AG’s Lamborghini plant. What does Lamborghini have to do with diesels, you ask? Nothing, but Luca de Meo, former global sales and marketing director of Audi, has his offices in Italy. He was named CEO of SEAT just a few weeks ago as part of the post-dieselgate cleanup, however, Italy’s lawmen seem to suspect he’s not clean enough.

The above is just the precursor of an avalanche of personnel changes at Volkswagen, that hallway radio predicts. Says a contact at Volkswagen:

“The diesel contagion  already has spread from engineering to marketing. Tomorrow, it can be Quality Assurance types who rubberstamped the engine documentation, even guys in purchasing who were in contact with affected suppliers.”

If there are competitors who wish to exploit Volkswagen’s misery, and I know a few who are not above that, then their most secret wishes come true. The real damage is not a few billion in penalty payments, but a mass mortality of VW’s management cadres. By wiping out swaths of managers in their prime, dieselgate will influence and set back Volkswagen for decades. Proper replacements are hard to find, and as a contact at Volkswagen said:

“If someone doesn’t know anything about defeat devices, he probably doesn’t know much to begin with.”

Volkswagen’s rapidly depleting management ranks are being filled with the blissfully ignorant.


P.S.: A day after this was filed, the Wall Street Journal reported that Frank Tuch, head of Volkswagen’s Quality department, has been suspended. Tuch was put into the job by Martin Winterkorn in 2010. As usual in these cases, Volkswagen does not comment. If true, the hallway radio was quite prescient when it said :  “Tomorrow, it can be Quality Assurance types.”

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