The Dieselgate scandal knocked Volkswagen’s power structure on its ass, seeing CEOs ousted and veterans of the company shift into newly designed positions. Yet just two weeks after being handed the restructured North American region for VW, former Škoda boss Winfried Vahland quit - because his wife refused to come with him.
Winfried Vahland has been with Volkswagen Group for over 25 years, and was with the Group’s Czech automaker Škoda until two weeks ago, when he accepted a newly formed position as head of VW’s North American market following a restructuring of power within the company.
As we covered this morning, Vahland surprisingly quit his new position in the North American market with almost no reason given beyond “differences in strategy.” With Volkswagen’s U.S. market tainted by the ever-expanding Dieselgate scandal, many assumed he didn’t want to accept a fall guy position.
That was until Automotive News reported that, as with many great leaders, the biggest influence in Vahland’s decision to leave Volkswagen was his wife.
Having constantly moved all around Europe for the previous 25 years of his career, Mrs. Vahland decided she would not be joining her husband in Herndon, Virginia, the location of Volkswagen’s U.S. base of operations.
Automotive News also cited, according to insider sources, many other reasons for Vahland’s difficult decision to depart the company he’s devoted a majority of his life to. He reportedly favored working with ousted VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, and the position he is now leaving was actually conceptualized between the two. It seems as though Winterkorn was looking to place Vahland in charge of North America before the diesel scandal broke out.
It seems even more likely that a “difference in strategy” with Volkswagen’s recent restructuring wouldn’t be a catalyst for Vahland’s departure considering it is an event designed in part by Vahland himself.
Another rumor reported is that Vahland has been eyeing the big job of Volkswagen CEO after the resignation of Winterkorn, and was eventually beat out by Porsche boss Matthias Müller.
Vahland’s sudden departure does no good to a company desperately in need of strong leadership over North America.
It was a big surprise when dealer-supported U.S. CEO Michael Horn managed to hold on to his position following the Dieselgate purge. His recent efforts at apologizing and saving face for Volkswagen - even having to testify to Congress on the company’s behalf - may cause him to be the new favorite in Wolfsburg as they search for a new-new North American market chief.
I just can’t wait to see how this falling-domino effect plays out in the upcoming movie.
PHOTO CREDIT: AP