VW Group of America CEO Michael Horn steps down

2016 Volkswagen Passat
The ongoing Volkswagen diesel scandal has claimed another executive. Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn will step down six months after news of the scandal broke, and amid continuing turmoil in Wolfsburg.

Horn will depart under “mutual agreement” to pursue other interests, effective immediately, a Volkswagen statement said. He will be replaced on an “interim basis” by Hinrich Woebcken, who was recently named chairman of VW Group of America, and head of the VW brand for the North American region. Woebcken previously worked for supplier Knorr-Bremse, as well as BMW.

The departing Horn was a favorite among Volkswagen’s U.S. dealers, according to Automotive News (subscription required). The dealers issued a statement calling his resignation a “serious blow” to the company, blasting the “continued mismanagement” of VW’s response to the diesel scandal, and saying they were “deeply concerned” about the leadership change.

As the diesel scandal drags on, it sometimes seems the only response Volkswagen knows is to shuffle its management. The shakeup started when CEO Martin Winterkorn stepped down shortly after news of the company’s emissions cheating broke. R&D boss Ulrich Hackenberg and design director Walter de Silva subsequently departed as well. In addition to replacing those executives, VW appointed Woebcken to his current post and named a new head of electric-car development, Christian Senger, formerly of supplier Continental.

But Volkswagen will probably have to take more concrete action soon. The company still doesn’t have an approved plan to address the nearly 600,000 diesel cars in the U.S. that have illegal “defeat device” software. U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer, who is overseeing a class-action lawsuit against the company, gave VW until March 24 to get a final plan together for a recall.

In April VW does plan to release the results of an internal investigation into the diesel scandal. The company has already admitted that former CEO Winterkorn may have been warned about the illegal software as early as May 2014, but claims there is no evidence he was fully aware the software existed and was being used to cheat on emissions tests.

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