VW sales chief's job on the line as carmaker reorganizes: sources

Thu Jun 11, 2015 11:05am EDT
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By Andreas Cremer and Jan Schwartz

BERLIN/HAMBURG (Reuters) - Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) group sales chief Christian Klingler, an ally of ousted chairman Ferdinand Piech, could lose his job as part of a reorganization by the carmaker intended to boost profits, company sources said.

Klingler's position could be axed as top players at VW draw up a new company structure to boost regional sales operations and make the group more nimble, two sources told Reuters.

Europe's largest automaker, aiming to increase cost savings at its troubled core division to 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) by 2017, is tackling trouble spots laid bare by the showdown in April between Piech and Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, which triggered the shock departure of VW's long-time patriarch.

The push to make Klingler's job redundant by giving more clout to brands and regional leaders coincides with deep-seated criticism by some managers of Klingler, who has overseen VW group sales operations since January 2010, one source said.

Klingler himself has pushed out various managers in his department and failed to address product gaps in the United States and Brazil where VW brand sales are falling, the source said on condition of anonymity.

Family ties have so far helped protect the sales chief. Klingler is chairman of Porsche Holding Salzburg, Europe's largest automotive retail company co-founded by Piech's deceased mother Louise and, Austrian-born like Piech, he is also married to one of Piech's relatives.

"Klingler certainly has some opponents," the source said. "So far, the rule has been that whoever criticizes him also indirectly rounds on Piech. That safeguard mechanism has ceased to exist."

Forthcoming changes at VW could spark a wider reshuffle of managers, the source added.   Continued...

A Volkswagen GTI car is seen during a presentation at the 16th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition in Shanghai, April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song