Volkswagen has named Michael Horn as president and chief executive its North American operations, replacing Jonathan Browning starting January 1, 2014. Browning is leaving Volkswagen for personal reasons and is returning to the United Kingdom. Horn, currently head of Volkswagen's global aftersales operations, joined the carmaker in 1990 and has been holding his current post since 2009.
Browning was credited for driving VW's US division to 23-percent growth in 2011 and a 30-percent gain in 2012. In 2012, the VW brand alone posted nearly 440,000 units in sales, up 35 percent from 2011, putting it on track to achieve its sales target of 800,000 units in 2018.
But in the first 11 months of 2013, sales of VW Group's vehicles -- VW, Audi, Porsche and Bentley models -- just grew 1 percent in a market that has surged 8 percent in the period.
In fact, sales of VW-branded models are down 5 percent. Sales of the models have dropped eight straight months, partly due to a lack of new products especially in the compact and mid-sized SUV segments, where its current offerings are pricier than rival models. This weakened performance has placed more pressure on Browning, who has claimed that sales will recover once a new wave of products arrives.
According to VW, the progress gained over the past years provides it a much stronger platform in the US market. “This is an opportune time to implement these changes in our leadership structure as the brand is between major product launches and is preparing for the next phase of growth for the VW brand in the U.S.,” VW said in recent a letter to US dealers obtained by Automotive News.