Hinrich J. WoebckenEnlarge Photo
Following the discovery of its diesel emissions cheating software last year by regulators in the United States, the Volkswagen Group announced a company restructuring that included the formation of a new North America division to oversee operations of the VW brand in the United States, Mexico and Canada. Originally, the VW Group appointed its Skoda brand’s CEO, Winfried Vahland, to head the new post. However, within two weeks Vahland stepped down.
It’s now been announced that former BMW executive Hinrich J. Woebcken will head the division, starting April 1, 2016. He will be responsible for all activities regarding the VW brand in the region, including product development, procurement, manufacturing, marketing and sales. Each country in the region will still have its own CEO, so in the United States current head of the VW brand Michael Horn will maintain his post.
Woebcken has an engineering background and was last in charge of the commercial vehicles division at German firm Knorr Bremse. Prior to that he worked at BMW where he was in charge of procurement.
The 55-year-old German joins VW at a critical point. The automaker is yet to develop a fix for its diesel engines fitted with the “defeat device” software used to hide their true emissions from regulators. An initial proposal for a fix was recently rejected by the California Air Resources Board and Environmental Protection Agency. Furthermore, VW is also facing a civil lawsuit from the Justice Department for violation of the Clean Air Act.
To help deal with authorities here, it’s been reported by Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung that VW is about to hire former Federal Bureau of Investigation head Louis Freeh. Freeh left the FBI in 2001 and is currently a legal consultant for the private sector.
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