Matthias Müller has quite a mess on his hands.
As the newly appointed CEO of Volkswagen Group, Müller is walking into a position with 11 million emission-violating vehicles, a corporation facing fines and scandal, and an inevitable backlash that could take years to recover from.
But Müller said he is up to the challenge:
“My most urgent task is to win back trust for the Volkswagen Group – by leaving no stone unturned and with maximum transparency, as well as drawing the right conclusions from the current situation,” said Müller of his new role.
“Under my leadership, Volkswagen will do everything it can to develop and implement the most stringent compliance and governance standards in our industry. If we manage to achieve that then the Volkswagen Group with its innovative strength, its strong brands and above all its competent and highly motivated team has the opportunity to emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”
Müller brings to the role almost 40 years of experience with the company. He completed an apprenticeship with Audi straight out of high school, and subsequently led Audi’s Systems Analysis Davison and then the Project Management team. In 1995, Müller ‘s role expanded to Project Management for Audi, Seat and Lamborghini. Müller shifted to the Volkswagen Group in 2007, and has led Porsche’s executive board for the past five years.
Despite this lengthy list of achievements and promotions, Müller is facing a problem of a magnitude rarely seen in the corporate world.
“Taking on the job of CEO at VW right now is probably the world’s toughest corporate gig,” said analyst Max Warburton with Bernstein Research. “A year of endless work beckons, begging for the forgiveness of regulators, government and consumers.”
To begin addressing the crisis, Warburton urged VW right now to be “big and bold.” His advice, as listed by Forbes, is certainly not for the timid:
- Spend $6 billion to offer to buy back the 500,000 affected vehicles in the U.S.
- Stop selling all Volkswagen diesel engines in the U.S. and shift emission-cutting efforts to gasoline and plug-in hybrid powertrains.
- Schedule a trip immediately to meet face-to-face with U.S. government officials, the EPA and the media.
- Don’t delay in relieving any engineer connected with the implicated 2.0-liter diesel engine and its software.
- Shut down the company’s involvement in motorsports, using the racing budget to fund “electric, plug-in hybrid and environmental research in a new research facility located in the U.S. employing U.S engineers.”
While this massive attack plan could help stabilize Volkswagen’s situation in the U.S., it still misses one major piece: Europe. Of the 11 million vehicles involved in “dieselgate,” 10 million are in European countries.