New Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller, shown during the debut of the Porsche Cayman.
As the new head of Volkswagen AG, Matthias Mueller will be overseeing the largest automaker in the world, a sprawling empire of brands and manufacturing facilities stretching from Beijing to Berlin. But that empire is also facing the biggest crisis in its 78-year history, one that some observers believe could destroy it.
The veteran Volkswagen executive, who until this morning was in charge of the Porsche brand, will now run the entire company, replacing Martin Winterkorn as CEO, Winterkorn forced out in the wake of the disclosure VW had been cheating on diesel emissions tests. Even as the VWAG board met to approve the 62-year-old Mueller’s promotion, authorities said the maker had rigged tests on 2.8 million diesel vehicles sold there, more than six times as many as have been impacted in the U.S.
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“He’s walking into a firestorm,” said analyst Joe Phillippi, of AutoTrends Consulting. But Phillippi stressed that even if Mueller can come up with a “fix-it plan,” VW’s troubles are far from over, “and are going to take years to resolve.”