At VW, the managers continue to be swapped

In the VW Group, a large-scale personnel change brings new top managers to the top of the commercial vehicle division. Most prominent departure: Andreas Renschler – the head of Traton’s listed truck and bus business.

Former VW manager Andreas Renschler

IIn the VW group, a large-scale personnel change brings new top managers to the top of the commercial vehicle division. At first glance, the most prominent losers: Andreas Renschler, head of Traton’s listed truck and bus business, and Joachim Drees, CEO of the Munich subsidiary MAN. Both should resign in the coming week. As Volkswagen and several of the group’s brands announced on Tuesday evening, the decisions will involve further exchanges and expansions.

Matthias Gründler will be the new CEO of Traton – he had already been with the company until May 2018, most recently as Chief Financial Officer. And MAN will in future be managed by the previous VW core brand production director, Andreas Tostmann, who is therefore also a member of the Traton board.

MAN personnel manager Carsten Intra is also to manage the light VW commercial vehicles (VWN) in Hanover. Group HR Director Gunnar Kilian will also take over responsibility for Traton on the Wolfsburg board of the entire group instead of Renschler – the previous Traton boss also had his own position here.

Personnel raids that have been planned well in advance and that have been pulled on numerous strings are nothing unusual in the world’s largest car company. For example, there were a number of changes in the realignment of the car brands. The fact that Renschler’s departure in particular should now take place within a week after the official announcement is considered to be relatively surprising.

The former Daimler manager should vacate his place as early as July 15. VW supervisory board chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch speaks in the highest tones of Renschler when saying goodbye. Especially with a view to the IPO, this “played a major role in the successful course that Traton has taken”. Like Drees from the MAN chairmanship, he is going “by mutual agreement,” emphasizes the group.

Reports of friction at the top of the Traton

Such formulations can of course hide the repercussions of hard disputes and turf wars. There had already been reports of friction at the top of the Traton. Accordingly, Renschler is said to have strived for a more centralized development – at the expense of the individual brands. There were also discrepancies in the relationship between management and employee representatives: At the beginning of April, the Traton works council denied statements by Renschler about discussions about a “fundamental realignment” of the truck manufacturer. So it should have been relatively lonely about the Traton manager recently.

Traton includes heavy commercial vehicles in the VW group. These include the MAN brand, the separate MAN business in South America and the Swedish manufacturer Scania. Developers of the subsidiaries are often careful not to deprive them of too many competencies. Research on new drives costs a lot of money in the industry, as does construction kits for leaner, more uniform production. Even before the virus crisis, austerity measures were taken in many places.

With Gründler, “one of the most experienced experts in the industry”, explained Pötsch. After he had left the company around two years ago, it was unclear to many observers why Gründler had left – or whether problems in the leadership circle played a role.

The replacement of Drees by Tostmann at the top of MAN is also an important person. There had been some criticism of Tostmann from workforce representatives in Wolfsburg. The requirements for shift schedules during the Corona break and especially the problems with the Golf 8 did not leave the entire management unaffected. VW boss Herbert Diess is now concentrating on overall management – after a violent squabble with supervisory and works councils – and co-managing director Ralf Brandstätter takes over the reins of the main VW Pkw brand.

Commercial vehicle business under difficult conditions

In the VWN division, which produces vans, crafter and caddy, MAN personnel and IT manager Carsten Intra inherits brand manager Thomas Sedran. There he built up the cooperation with the American competitor Ford – the partners are planning, among other things, electric vehicles and a successor to the Amarok pick-up. Scania boss Henrik Henriksson remains in office.

The commercial vehicle business is currently under difficult conditions. In 2019, VW’s truck subsidiaries were able to expand their business, and both MAN and Scania increased sales and returns. But the Corona crisis is now also putting massive pressure on sales here. There were also production stoppages, and the economic downturn has traditionally hit commercial vehicle manufacturers hard.

In America, where Daimler has so far been one step ahead, Traton wants to strengthen itself with the truck manufacturer Navistar. However, this was in the red in the second fiscal quarter. Renschler had paid 2.9 billion dollars for the remaining Navistar shares – in 2016, the VW Group division had stepped in to get a foot in the door in North America. In Japan, Traton works with Hino Motors.