Michael Horn just started this month serving as chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America. Armed with a long working history in Germany and a good understanding on how to connect with the executives of parent Volkswagen AG, Horn would not let a mean bronchitis stop him from making a strong first impression.
On the eve of the Detroit auto show, a number of Volkswagen AG board members and executives had gathered for a company reception at a downtown restaurant. Horn was to make his appearance as CEO of the carmaker’s US unit and become the new face of the Volkswagen brand in America.
Although Horn struggled from a cough, he managed to suppress it just as he introduced Volkswagen AG chief executive Martin Winterkorn on stage and speak to the board members.
"My boss is very demanding, and we have a difficult year ahead of us," Horn told Automotive News, referring to Winterkorn. Horn remarked that 2014 would be a challenging year in the United States. “But I have only one mode, and this is to go forward -- or, as you would say, to go on offense."
For Horn, going on offense does not just mean increasing the carmaker’s sales in the US to around 800,000 VW-brand vehicles and making it a major player like Toyota and Honda, but it also means pushing VW executives at its Wolfsburg base to approve and launch products that are designed particularly for the American market, starting with a US version of the Tiguan compact crossover.