This time it was the right one … Herbert Diess resigned from the position of Chairman of the Management Board of the Volkswagen group. He will be replaced by Oliver Blume, the current owner of Porsche. He will assume his duties from September 1 while maintaining his responsibilities at the head of the luxury brand.
The resignation of Herbert Diess was a big surprise because it was not expected or announced in the medium term. The man who heads the ten-brand German juggernaut, world number one in the automotive industry, took over the reins of the group in 2018. His appointment is the end of the crisis that followed the extraordinary scandal of rigged engines, the final cost of which exceeded $25 billion in various indemnities or fines. The former boss of the Volkswagen brand then began to rebuild the strategic roadmap of a group that never managed to get its pro-combustion engine culture.
A letter of resignation to quell a mutiny
In 2020, he had to face an internal mutiny, consisting of an atypical hitch between engineering barons and trade unionists. In the fall, he put his resignation on the table of the board of directors, thus forcing him to decide on his big change plan that should then turn the table to make Volkswagen a world champion of electro-mobility . . Billions will then be invested in new technologies, but also in charging infrastructure, or in software expertise with more than 11,000 IT engineers to be recruited.
The supervisory board hesitated … But ended up giving him a discharge. Herbert Diess then took his pilgrim staff to try to rally the employees to his cause. The press will report on the heated exchange with staff representatives on the consequences of its change plan. But Herbert Diess is convinced that despite its industrial and technological power, Volkswagen has accumulated delays and weaknesses against Tesla, whose sales will be equal to Audi in less than two years. In connection, software or electrification, the German group is no longer ahead, he diagnoses.
“I’m worried about Wolfsburg (the group’s world headquarters where the largest factory is also located, editor’s note)“, he stated in front of the employees.I want your children and grandchildren to still have a job with us in Wolfsburg in 2030” launched Herbert Diess to justify the scale and audacity of his “revolution”.
“In the new automotive world, unprecedented competition awaits us“, he also stated before confessing after testing the cars in China: “”I will admit that they are not bad at all“.
An appreciative group
In the press release formalizing the departure of Herbert Diess, the supervisory board saluted the work of the outgoing chairman.
“Mr. Diess demonstrated the speed and consistency with which he was able to drive major change processes. He not only guided the company through very turbulent waters, but he also implemented a fundamentally new strategy , said Hans Dieter Pötsch, Chairman of the Supervisory Board.
The mysterious reasons for leaving
It is impossible to know the real reasons for the departure of Herbert Diess. Its pugnacity over a more brutal change or a deep divergence of the supervisory board at a time when the energy crisis is shaking the economic equation of the electric car?
What is certain is that after the fall of Martin Winterkorn in 2015 after Dieselgate, that of Matthias Müller in 2018, Herbert Diess is part of this tradition of catastrophic departures of the bosses of one of the largest industrial groups in the world with nearly 600,000 employees.