UPDATE 4/12/2018: Volkswagen AG has officially named Herbert Diess, formerly head of the Volkswagen car division, as new CEO. In a statement, supervisory board chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch said Matthias Müller led VW during the “greatest challenge in its history” and praised his “outstanding work.” Diess, pictured above, will also lead VW’s research and development and its information technology departments. Diess said VW was a “provider of sustainable mobility,” which has become a popular and meaningless catchphrase among many new automaker CEOs attempting to look visionary.
Volkswagen AG CEO Matthias Müller, who in his 31 months in the job has slashed budgets and worked to salvage the German automaker’s reputation following the , is expected to resign as early as this Friday.
The company released a muddled statement referring to “personnel changes” and stating that Müller “showed his general willingness to contribute to the changes.” German news reports are more direct: Müller will step down, and his likely replacement is VW division chief Herbert Diess, who joined VW in July 2015 after a 19-year career at BMW. The company has not confirmed any details.
Müller, 64, immediately following the company’s admission in September 2015 that it had violated U.S. emissions laws with its “clean diesel” TDI engines. Previously, he had been CEO of Porsche since 2010. Müller is one of the longest-serving VW employees on the board of directors. He began his full-time career with Audi in 1978 following a toolmaking apprenticeship when he was fresh out of high school. Since then, Müller has worked in various research and product-development roles at Audi, SEAT, Lamborghini, Volkswagen, and Porsche.
In January 2017, the Department of Justice issued arrest warrants for six VW executives, including former environmental director , who in December was sentenced to a $400,000 fine and seven years in prison. A second VW employee not originally named by the DOJ, former engineer James Robert Liang, was sentenced in August to 40 months and a $200,000 fine. The other five VW executives are in Germany and likely never to set foot on U.S. soil in the future. The company and agreed to a $4.3 billion settlement, to say nothing of the potential billions it faces under class-action lawsuits. Müller himself has not been formally charged with any wrongdoing.
His priority, besides claiming that the diesel-emissions scandal was caused by a instead of a deliberate attempt to break the law, has been to shift VW’s management and its product portfolio in an entirely new direction. Müller initiated financial reviews into the Volkswagen Group builds, killed all diesel imports to the United States, reorganized the entire North American division, and, most boldly for a German automaker that had staked so much of its profits on diesel-powered cars, committed to a hyperaggressive plan to sell at least across the group’s 12 brands by 2025. Under Müller, the company posted a 6 percent operating profit in 2017—a healthy $16.6 billion—even after accounting for the diesel scandal.