December 17, 2015 / 11:01 AM / in 2 years

Volkswagen chief appoints new top management team

Volkswagen (VW) Chief Executive Matthias Mueller makes a statement during a news conference in Wolfsburg, Germany December 10, 2015. REUTERS/Nigel Treblin

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Volkswagen’s chief executive Matthias Mueller named his new management team on Thursday, including the replacement for the group’s research and development chief who left earlier this month as a result of the diesel emissions scandal.

Under the overhaul the number of top managers reporting to the CEO almost halves.

“These structural changes speed up the decision-making process, reduce complexity and increase efficiency,” Mueller said in a statement.

The new appointments are mostly internal, although Ulrich Eichhorn returns to become R&D chief after three years at the German automobile industry association.

Volkswagen has made clear it wants to free up Mueller to concentrate on overall strategy, which involves drawing up new business targets for the group up to 2025, and manage the shift toward electrically-powered vehicles.

Mueller, the head of Porsche before he was asked to take over as group CEO after Martin Winterkorn resigned following the revelations that VW had cheated U.S. emissions tests, will also have more time to deal with the ensuing crisis for the company, which faces huge costs in the form of vehicle recalls, possible regulatory penalties and litigation.

VW last week announced that procurement chief Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz, one of the carmaker’s most experienced executives, has been appointed to handle the crisis.

The new managers reporting to Mueller will take on more responsibility in areas such as R&D, sales, design, production and product strategy.

Eichhorn, 54, joined the company from Ford and led research at the group from 2000 to 2003. He then took over responsibility for technical development at VW’s luxury Bentley unit before his spell at the industry association.

VW announced in early December the departure of the group’s former R&D chief, Ulrich Hackenberg, who had been with the company for 30 years.

Hackenberg had been suspended two months earlier together with two other executives closely associated with the development of the VW diesel engine at the center of the scandal, codenamed EA 189.

Wolfram Thomas, who has been with the group for 35 years, takes over as production chief while Fred Kappler, who joined VW as a trainee in 1982, becomes responsible for sales.

Michael Mauer, design chief at Porsche, takes on the same role at the entire group. A relative newcomer, the 53 year-old joined Porsche from General Motors Europe in 2004.

Ralf-Gerhard Willner, currently head of vehicle concepts at Audi, will oversee product strategy.

Writing by David Stamp; Editing by Greg Mahlich

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