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Volkswagen management tumult spills over to truck subsidiary


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Bloomberg  /  July 7, 2020

FRANKFURT -- Volkswagen Group's series of executive shake-ups is reaching its heavy-truck division Traton, with the surprise departure of the unit’s chief raising questions about its future strategy.

Andreas Renschler will leave VW’s management board effective July 15 and be replaced by Matthias Gruendler, the former CFO of the Munich-based truck unit, according to a statement Tuesday.

Traton management board member Joachim Drees, who leads the MAN trucks business, also will leave his post, as will personnel chief Carsten Intra.

Intra will replace Thomas Sedran as head of VW’s light commercial vehicles division. Sedran, a key figure behind VW’s alliance with Ford Motor Co., will assume responsibility for asset management at the commercial vehicles and machinery operations.

VW group has made several management changes over the past weeks amid internal tension that has risen from costly efforts to electrify its lineup while also coping with the biggest industry slump in decades.

Tesla zoomed past the industrial giant in terms of market capitalization early this year and now has more than tripled VW’s valuation despite selling a fraction as many vehicles.

Executive overhaul

Former VW brand COO Ralf Brandstaetter was promoted to the brand chief position last month after group CEO Herbert Diess lost direct control following a clash with key supervisory board members.

VW brand development chief Matthias Rabe moved to the British luxury-car marque Bentley and VW group purchasing chief Stefan Sommer abruptly left the manufacturer.

The new CEO of VW Group's Audi brand, Markus Duesmann, who took over at the group’s premium-car unit in April, plans to accelerate a restructuring push to restore profit margins.

VW pushed through an initial public offering of Traton last year after some back-and-forth that dragged on for months, but proceeds fell short of expectations.

Navistar implications

Traton also made a takeover offer for U.S. peer Navistar International earlier this year. VW officials have signaled the strategic logic for the deal remains intact but have sent mixed signals about when and under what conditions the deal might go ahead.

Navistar shares slumped following Traton’s announcement, falling 5.9 percent to close at $27.17 Tuesday in New York trading. Navistar’s stock is still up 13 percent since Traton made its $2.9 billion offer in January.

“From a personal point of view there is no better point in time to leave and to hand over the business to a very experienced successor,” Renschler said in an internal letter to employees seen by Bloomberg. “With Matthias Gruendler, who some of you should know as our former CFO, as my successor I am sure that you will support him as much as you supported me.”

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This is huge in itself, and hugely negative for Navistar. Renschler is the "truck guy", the key to making Traton work. His chosen replacement is a finance guy (no offense to finance guys).

In my opinion, firing Renschler is disastrous for the Navistar partnership, and MAN. Scania knows how to run itself. This is what happens when car guys make decisions on a truckmaker (we've seen it before with Ford, and GM heavy truck)

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Finance running auto and truck manufacturing seems to be the trend-  the Japanese makers have long taken orders from the banks, FCA and GM owe their lives to Treasury, and Ford is now deeply indebted to the Fed for their continued existence. As for automakers making big trucks, they're too addicted to billion dollar investments in new models and vehicle a minute line rates to stomach the big truck biz. That leaves an opening for a billionaire investor, private capital, or China... 

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No question VW is a mess, their all-or-nothing BEV program is in deep trouble, tremendous infighting between different factions in management, the unions, and those who really own the mess, and falling market share in key markets.  But, why are these issues spilling over into the successful and well-run commercial truck operation?  If anything you would think that would be the last thing VW would want to mess with at a time like this. 

And to think that Ford wants to partner up with these clowns.  If I were Navistar I still might shack up with Traton, but only after they are spun off of VW.

BTW, NAV did slump yesterday but the whole market was off.


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