By on March 9, 2016

Michael Horn

Volkswagen’s American operation is looking for a new leader.

Michael Horn, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, stepped down effective immediately on March 9.

The company stated that Horn departed in mutual agreement with the company, and will be pursuing other opportunities.

Horn’s duties will be taken over on an interim basis by Hinrich J. Woebcken, who was chosen in January to head Volkswagen’s North American Region and serves as chairman of Volkswagen Group of America.

Horn joined Volkswagen AG in 1990 and had headed their U.S. operations since January, 2014. Previously, he served as head of sales for Europe.

In a statement, the company thanked Horn for his contributions to Volkswagen:

“I want personally to say ‘thank you’ to Michael Horn for the great work he has done for the brand and with the dealers in the United States,” said Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen brand. “During his time in the U.S., Michael Horn built up a strong relationship with our national dealer body and showed exemplary leadership during difficult times for the brand,” he added.

In October, Horn testified before a congressional committee investigating Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal. It was there he announced the company would be withdrawing its application for emissions certification for 2016 models powered by 2.0-liter diesel engines.

Volkswagen has yet to reveal a plan to fix the millions of diesel models that left the Volkswagen factory with a built-in “defeat device” designed fool emissions regulators.

In his testimony before Congress, Horn stated that older affected models — possibly numbering more than 300,000 in the U.S. — would not easily be fixed, and would require extensive hardware revisions to bring them into compliance. Without the modifications, the vehicles would suffer from lowered performance and fuel mileage.

Speculation continues to this day as to whether Volkswagen will buy back those older vehicles, rather than spend money on their repair.

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47 Comments on “BREAKING: Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn Resigns...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    I wonder why it never seems to occur to them to appoint an actual American to the post. The Germans they keep sending over seem to have zero understanding of the US auto market, US regulators, or really anything other than how to hire a decent ad agency.

    • 0 avatar
      islander800

      Uh, that would be your typical German arrogance at play.

      I had a Rabbit before switching to Honda decades ago. It always burned my butt when you had to deal with dour Wolfgang of the SS behind the service counter. They seemed to think their s$%t didn’t stink.

      I’ve read and experienced enough about German autos to realize their vaunted German quality is horse crap. Their reliability is below par, especially after warranty runs out. I got a real chuckle from one article I read that described how M.B. had to employ an army of “fixers” at the end the assembly line to repair all the faults that were “baked in” during assembly, rather than build the damn things properly first time, like the Japanese seem to have mastered.

      Master race indeed.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Yes, that was indeed the case in 1990, when the book by MIT was published. MB had a huge rework area. But at least the cars were decent.

        So during the early 1990s, MB was so stung by the criticism, they tried to copy the Toyota lean production methods. In so doing, they really produced some crap as they struggled to integrate the new manufacturing methods with design changes at the same time.

    • 0 avatar
      jjster6

      Because Germany!

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        I work for a firm headquartered in Amsterdam. Whenever we hear of an open position at a senior level, we know it’ll get filled by SDG.

        Some Dutch Guy.

    • 0 avatar
      Notadude

      VW hires are nothing if not homogeneous.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Wir spielen heisse Kartoffel!

  • avatar
    brettc

    Wow, I didn’t expect he’d be leaving since he stuck around for 6 likely horrible months even after he was supposed to get a new boss (until that guy decided to bail).

    The plot thickens, or something.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    They need to install a revolving door on the CEO’s office.

    • 0 avatar

      A TDI-powered revolving door for maximum fuel efficiency.

      • 0 avatar
        Chan

        Knowing VW, they could install an electric door and it would fail emissions.

        • 0 avatar
          brettc

          Yeah, no need to bring up electrical components in a VW thread ;)

          You know that door would stop working and trap someone until roadside door assistance gets there. It would be accompanied with a flashing glow plug light overhead.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        There is a joke somewhere in there about diesel fuel fumes, fired executives, and Germans, but I refuse to Goodwin this thread.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Actually, it’s Godwin. his idea is that that the longer an internet discussion goes on, the greater the chance of national socialists or Schicklgruber being mentioned.

          For some reason, many people think that reaching that point causes the person making the statement lose the argument, or the discussion is effectively over.

          Neither is the case. In fact, some people think the argument or discussion is just getting started at that point, due to the universal applicability of n.a. and Schicklgruber.

  • avatar
    wmba

    I don’t blame Horn for quitting. He had nothing to do with what his comrades back home were cooking up for the TDI. He’s in sales.

    You live only one life, so why would he ruin his by appearing before Senate committees, arguing with the EPA and CARB because the bosses back home are intransigent on proper fixes, and trying to justify the German union guy Osterloh who pleads for mercy from the USA because there may be job losses.

    The arrogant twits who run VW, led by the cunning Ferdinand Piech, thought they were so darn smart they could get away with anything. And in Europe they have, with the German transport agency rubber-stamping those laughable “fixes” for TDI’s, which by Euro type approvals mean all the other EU members are forced to accept the “solution” whether they agree or not.

    Mr Horn, you are doing the right thing. Let the people really responsible for this mess explain their way out of it.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Well, he wasn’t exactly a master salesman either, either not understanding the US market, or being unable to sell his bosses over in The Fatherland on the idea of making cars Americans actually want to buy.

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      wmba, spot on.

      And in all fairness, I don’t know if any salesman would do a better job with the insecure/authoritarian bosses this guy had.

      VW is showing it was a management fcuk-up waiting to blow. These things do not happen in a broom closet by a handful of joe schmoes. The last-century management style in place had everything to do with it.

      Companies run by brilliant execs who are secure enough in themselves to give wide latitude to their team, trust their judgement, and take honest feedback from them.

      VW needs a turn-around CEO with WIDE authority from the board to institute deep changes within its ranks, someone who will challenge everything the company has been doing wrong, including hiring on the basis of ethnicity. It won’t happen with Muller and the current board. VW is toast if it can’t pivot asap. German politics will have to save them.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t feel bad. You’ll have the last laugh. America will receive multi-billions in fines from VW. We in Europe bought so much more VW diesel cars, and the EU will receive nothing from VW because of its own faulty testing procedures.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    TDI revolving door: more smoke than mirrors.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    It would be interesting to learn who jilted who.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      IIRC Horn was supposed to get the axe last fall as part of the reorganization, but the dealer group wanted him to stay. VW promoted an executive to the oversee the Americas, but bowed out before the job started. Another exec was brought on, Horn got passed over twice for his loyalty and damage control.

      This shitstorm has no end in sight: TDI fiasco, minimal support for the mother ship, and cratering sales, I can’t blame him for bailing. Good fortune, Mr Horn.

  • avatar
    Notadude

    “…in my German words, we have totally screwed up,” he said in English…

  • avatar
    seth1065

    They really need a North American to fight for what VW needs here but I guess that is asking to much.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Michael Horn may have left in time to dodge the fall out of the verdict against Audi for the collapsing seatback tech.

      VW/Audi stated in the deposition that the seat was “proudly so” designed to collapse for it to absorb collision forces but the jury decided it was just poor engineering.

      Collapsing seatback injuries are few and far between to be sure but it would not surprise me if the NHTSA will cave to a demand for a recall by the IIHS and other safety groups.

  • avatar
    RHD

    The rats are jumping into the water as the ship sinks.
    Not a pretty metaphor, but VW has really screwed things up and is doing an awful job of straightening out the mess. I would feel bad for the company, but their cars aren’t so great that I would want them to make a rousing comeback.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I still don’t see any great deals in my area dealerships. It’s not like they’re trying hard to move inventory. I like this 7th gen Golf and what they’re doing with it – R & Sportwagon. Soon Sportwagon special with adaptive, blind etc. But VW charges thousands extra for gizmos on the same model. Look at the price gap between a Golf Trendline and Highline. Telling me the top trims worth thousands more on the same model?

  • avatar

    VW should do better. Companies with a wide portfolio live or die based on ability to tune to local markets. BMW and GM have made accommodation for China-and done well. What sells well where is a product of local regulation and income, plus a few undefinables.

    VW has failed to do this. We tended to get dumbed down and tone deaf US versions of things…read an EU VW catalog, then the US version. Same company ?

    They have survived by not screwing up the GTi, and selling a good base car, but beyond that, not so much

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Interestingly VW has done a great job in China as well. Horn was only in this position since 2014, so it’s not like he’d have any chance to get any new products to market yet.

      They seem to be heading in the right direction with the cars. If they can improve the next Tiguan and Touareg as much as the improved the Golf VII, then they will absolutely come back in the US market.

  • avatar

    Oh, the diesel fallout will be much bigger. Just a few minutes ago, Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant wrote that Dutch research institute TNO found out that not a single diesel car it sample-tested met emission standards! TNO tested Volkswagen Passat CC, BMW 518, Opel Zafira, Peugeot 308, Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz C220. The Dutch were the only ones who voted in favor of upholding the emission standards the EU already agreed upon. As you may know, a couple of months ago the EU decided to be more lenient, and allow car makers more time to meet standards.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Independent Test A will usually yield different results than Regulatory Test B.

      How far did the results deviate from the required emissions levels? What’s the expected deviation between the two test methods?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I predicted this (Horn’s departure) at the beginning:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/vw-us-chief-we-have-totally-screwed-up/#comment-6427114
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/10/volkswagen-america-ceo-horn-need-bloody-learn-get-act-together/#comment-6547962

    Good luck, Mr Horn; time to work someplace where you can get something done without cleaning up for your employer every day.

    I’m surprised he stuck around this long.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    When Horn took over for Browning back in 2014 the dealers rejoiced, because supposedly he had the ear of the board which Browning did not. So, event without Dieselgate, what exactly did that get VWoA? The Jetta and Passat have received minor facelifts, the Tiguan is still around, and they insist of special edition after special edition of the Beetle.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    This probably means that VW is going to delay delay delay with resolving the emissions issues in the US. Until the cars become less and less prevalent on the road…they know that a year or two gone and they will save themselves a TON of money and the overall direct PR impact will be lessened. Once VW chose the less defensible path Horn likely quickly decided that daily crisis management of a high profile, drawn-out and anti-environmentally friendly business strategy is not going to define his life or career.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    That photo reminded me of the color scheme at an electronics store (defunct) I used to go into as a kid in a mall (defunct), and play with the PCs they had on display whilst my mom shopped at Bigg’s (defunct). I had to look up the name because it’s been so long.

    CompUSA!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    What a s**t show.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      We didn’t do it!
      Oh, well we are guilty, but we didn’t know!
      Some people knew, we can’t be sure if they did or didn’t.
      Well, we sent a memo but he didn’t see it or something.
      There was a meeting but he was too far away and he said his ear hurt.
      I quit.
      I quit!
      You’re fired.
      I resign.

      Money!

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Yeah, classic.

        I survived some of this stuff during my Last Days At Worldcom. They actually stopped paying the guy who watered all the plants in the office, and required employees to bring in their own office supplies. Meanwhile, all those shares they gave out when the stock was trading for $90 with a $45 strike price were worth maybe $10 by the time they laid me off. Ah well, I didn’t need that 72 grand…

        It got so bad that it was rumored that the Bernie Ebbers (yes, that guy) wouldn’t go into any other company facilities other than the HQ building out of fear for his personal safety.

        But the real hilarity didn’t ensue until they stopped paying for coffee. As blunders go, that was right up there with Little Bighorn. You can cut benefits, not give out raises, make people work more, and they’ll put up with it…but whatever you do, if you don’t want your office to look like like the “to the barricades!” scene from Les Miserables, don’t take out the f**king coffee. Just don’t do it. Your employees WILL lose their s**t, big time.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I’ll have to read up on that company, I don’t think I’ve heard of it before. That situation sounds pretty shite though.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          My other comment has to be approved because I said a semi-bad word – but I hadn’t heard of that particular name, Worldcom. If you had said MCI I would have known. I still dunno the story though, so I’m gonna read up.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Worldcom bought MCI, where I was working at the time of the merger. MCI was a great company. When the Worldcom merger took place their executives began visiting our facility. The men all had beards (just like Bernie Ebbers) and the women all looked and talked like Tammie Faye Baker.

            (Favorite line from one of the Worldcom Ladies, in an inimitable Southern Girl drawl: “We have janitors in the headquarters that are millionaires!”)

            It was all done with stock maniuplation, and cooking the books to the tune of about $11 billion. When Worldcom collapsed the scraps were bought up by Verizon.

            The layoff that got me happened because – get this – Bernie Ebbers had all his money tied up on Worldcom stock and when the shares tanked, he had a margin call. The company had to loan him $400 million so he wouldn’t dump his shares. So, $400 million went to Ebbers, and 8,000 people got whacked to pay for it.

            Ebbers is now doing 25 years in Club Fed, where he will die if there’s any justice.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Wow, $3.8B of fraud, after he used the company as his own private loan source for his other businesses.


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