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Another Shake-up at Porsche; Macht Out as CEO

VW cements its control.

by on Jul.06, 2010

New Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller.

Further cementing its hold on the long independent Porsche AG, German rival Volkswagen has appointed its top car-model strategist to run the sports car company.

Matthias Mueller, 57, is the new chairman of the board of  Porsche management, moving from Volkswagen AG where he was in charge of product Planning and product management and model series for the VW Group and the Volkswagen Brand.

Effective October 1, Mueller will replace Michael Macht, 49, who was appointed a member of the board of management of Volkswagen AG. In the future Macht will be responsible for the Production Division and, as a result, the control and coordination of all plants within the Volkswagen Group.

“Contributing (his) knowledge, he guarantees that Porsche, as a world brand, will not only maintain, but further expand its top position,” Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Porsche AG, said of the new sports car maker’s CEO.

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Mueller’s appointment was viewed as an indicator Porsche would work more closely with VW as it developed new products in the future.

“Matthias Mueller gives us the exceptional competence of an outstanding product expert benefiting the interaction of independent brands within an Integrated Automotive Group leading the market worldwide,” added Chairman Porsche.

With the Panamera leading the way, Porsche's new owners hope to double the brand's sales.

The upcoming management shake-up is the latest development in the odd relationship between VW and Porsche.  Both companies were founded by the family of legendary auto pioneer Ferdinand Porsche, though in recent decades each company has been dominated by a separate – and often competing – Porsche family.

(Click Here for more on VW’s purchase of Porsche.)

In a David-and-Goliath bid, former Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking made a bit to buy the bigger maker, coming close to succeeding before his company began to sink under a heavy debt load.  In a surprising turnaround, Porsche agreed to sell itself to VW, at which time Wiedeking, once hailed as the industry’s most successful chief executive, handed in his resignation.  The relatively unknown Macht took his place.

Mueller will take charge at a critical time for Porsche, which saw first-half 2010 sales in the U.S. jump 14% ahead of last year’s sales pace.  That was largely driven by the success of the maker’s latest offering, its first-ever 4-door sports car, the Panamera.

Meanwhile, Porsche, not normally known for the fuel efficiency of its products, is entering the hybrid segment.  It recently introduced its first gas-electric model, a version of the high-performance Cayenne SUV.  A Panamera hybrid is also under development, and at last winter’s Geneva Motor Show, the maker unveiled a prototype plug-in hybrid, the 918, which could enter production before mid-decade, Macht told TheDetroitBureau.com.

(Click Here for more on Porsche’s hybrid strategy.)

Overall, the sports car maker is hoping to double sales to 150,000 annually in the mid-term.

Mueller has some experience in the luxury car segment, overseeing product management at Audi for four years before moving to Volkswagen in 2007.  There he was involved with an array of brands, from entry-level Skoda to Bugatti, the VW brand producing the $1 million Veyron supercar.

That background, said a Porsche statement, “will help guarantee Porsche can build upon its leading experience as a global brand.”

As for Macht, the October shift marks his return to manufacturing, a job he held in Stuttgart for the decade prior to the Porsche-VW face-off.

TheDetroitBureau.com’s Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this story.

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