High Hopes for German Native Michael Horn as CEO of VW of America

Article by Anita Panait, on December 18, 2013

For some, it remains a puzzle why Volkswagen AG named Michael Horn as the new chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, succeeding Jonathan Browning. After all, even VW’s executives have admitted being stumped by America. The brand has yet to fully crack the US market. However, to VW insiders and US dealers, the decision makes perfect sense.

They told Automotive News that if the US division is headed by a German CEO who understands Wolfsburg's culture and practices, it might achieve more than it did during Browning in communicating a plan to recover from a current VW-brand sales slump.

The decision could have been patterned after Browning's predecessor, Stefan Jacoby. Jacoby, a German, was the CEO of Volkswagen Group of America from 2007 to 2010.

As a German, Jacoby was able to speak frankly to his bosses about the needs of the US division. Browning, a British, could not achieve that. When Jacoby left, VW was currently building its $1 billion Chattanooga assembly plant, with room for expansion. The division had also redesigned the Jetta and Passat sedans to suit American tastes.

"We got the factory with help from Stefan Jacoby because he knew how Volkswagen AG works," Wade Walker, president of a VW-Mazda store in Vermont, told Automotive News.

He remarked that a non-German executive would not be familiar with the workings of the VW AG board.  Horn, on the other hand, seems to be the man for the job. He has been working for Volkswagen AG since 1990 and had served as chief of global after sales since 2009. He also used to lead European sales. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

Topics: ceo, vw, united states

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