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Car and Driver: VW Group CEO Makes More Personnel Changes at the Top

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GERMANY-US-AUTOMOBILE-VOLKSWAGEN

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Recently installed VW Group CEO Matthias Müller has made more sweeping changes in the company’s upper ranks. Ousted VW Group R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg will be replaced by Ulrich Eichhorn, while Group design chief Walter de’Silva will give way to Porsche chief designer Michael Mauer. (Hackenberg also served as Audi’s R&D chief; that role was given to Stefan Knirsch earlier this month.)

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Both executives are well known within the VW Group. Eichhorn, however, began his industry career at Ford, where he eventually had responsibility for chassis engineering and global vehicle dynamics. He headed VW Group Research from 2000 to 2003 and then moved to become R&D chief at Bentley. In Crewe, he put the final touches on the original Continental GT, and was in charge of derivatives like the GTC and Flying Spur as well as the Azure and Brooklands models, the Mulsanne, and the second-generation Continental GT.

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Volkswagen Leadership Convenes

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VW Group CEO Matthias Müller has overseen a shake up within the executive ranks since taking the helm.
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Eichhorn, a “petrolhead” whose first car was a BMW 2002, is not just a thorough engineer, he also is politically savvy: He left Bentley in late 2011 to become managing director at Germany’s powerful manufacturer’s association, VDA. His responsibilities there included technology, safety, quality, and vintage cars. At VW, he will oversee global R&D and push for further evolutions of the modular-platform strategy implemented by his predecessor, as well as work on low-cost vehicles for global markets.

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Michael Mauer (left) with his predecessor as VW Group design chief, Walter de’Silva.
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Michael Mauer started at Mercedes-Benz, a company he joined in 1986 at the age of 24. There, he was responsibile for the original Smart, the A-class, the SLK, and the SL. In 2000, Mauer left for Saab, then still part of the GM empire; he moved from there to lead Porsche design in 2004. Since 2010, he has reported directly to Walter de’Silva, whom he now succeeds. At Porsche, he oversaw the design of an expanded lineup of vehicles, including the Panamera, Cayenne, and Macan.

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Mauer also is an avid sportsman who has, on occasion, spoken about his passion for skiing and the outdoors. His first car was a rear-wheel-drive Datsun Violet. As head of VW Group design, his challenges will include honing the identities of the Group’s 12 brands. He will no doubt get along swimmingly with Müller, who led Porsche as CEO from 2010 until taking the reins of the Group as the diesel-emissions scandal came to a head earlier this year.

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