The Volkswagen overhaul continues into next year with a raft of new executive appointments that CEO Mattias Müller says will enable "Faster decision-making and more efficient action." One of the headline moves is Porsche head of design Michael Mauer taking over VW Group design, succeeding Walter de Silva who retired in early November after running the Group's styling bureau since 2007. Among the sheetmetal on Mauer's resume are the Mercedes SLK and SL from the late nineties, the 2007 Porsche Cayenne, the Panamera, and, most recently, the 918 Spyder. He will retain his current role at Porsche in addition to the new responsibilities. Here's hoping some of the excitement seen in the 918 filters its way down to VW's recently mundane offerings.

Dr. Ulrich Eichhorn was head of Group R&D from 2000 to 2003, then went to Bentley, then left the company for the German Association of the Automotive Industry in 2012. He has been lured back to his old role in charge of Group R&D, taking over the shoes recently worn by Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, who resigned in early December while still suspended over his involvement in the diesel emissions fiasco. Ralf-Gerhard Willner takes over Group Product and Modular Toolkit Strategy, after leading development vehicle concept divisions at Audi and VW, and being technical director at Italdesign Giugiaro. He will play a huge role as VW evolves and expands its current platform strategy to include purpose-built electric cars and flat batteries.

All those bottoms will be in chairs in Q1 of next year. The number of department heads that report directly to Müller has also been cut, giving Müller more time to focus on "overarching issues of the future." VW says that primary among them will be technology issues from EVs to digital integration. Back in October the company hired Thomas Sedran away from Opel as a lead strategist, his job being to figure out how each of those technical departments and the Group's brands navigate the marketplace and those "issues" from now until 2025. The press release below has more.

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Volkswagen Group continues structural and staff realignment

- Functions in CEO's area of responsibility reorganized
- Müller: "Faster decision-making and more efficient action"

Wolfsburg, 17 December 2015 - The Volkswagen Group is becoming more streamlined and speeding up its internal decision-making process. To that end, functions in the area of responsibility headed by CEO Matthias Müller are being restructured. The number of top managers reporting direct to the CEO has been almost halved, and new appointments to several posts will take effect in the first quarter of 2016.

The CEO of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, Matthias Müller, said: "These structural changes speed up the decision-making process, reduce complexity and increase efficiency. The Group Board of Management can focus more closely than previously on overarching issues of the future, safeguard cross-brand synergies and further develop overall strategy." Müller underscored: "The team in the CEO's area of responsibility is almost complete, with excellent colleagues from within and outside the Group taking up the new posts. We are focusing in particular on the technological changes that impact the future of mobility – from electrification to the digital transformation. Our goal is to play a decisive role in shaping the transformation of the automobile. Our new lean structure will enable us to develop the considerable potential of our Company, its brands and employees to great effect. We will see faster decision-making and more efficient action."

Under these structural changes, the following appointments take effect in the CEO's area of responsibility during the first quarter of 2016:

Dr. Ulrich Eichhorn (54) will lead Group Research and Development. Eichhorn holds a PhD in mechanical engineering. Having started his career at Ford, he was Head of Volkswagen Group Research from 2000 to 2003. He was appointed Board Member for Engineering at Bentley in 2003 before taking over as Managing Director of the German Association of the Automotive Industry in 2012.

Fred Kappler (57) will assume responsibility for Group Sales. He studied business science and joined Volkswagen as a trainee in 1982. He held various responsibilities in the export section of Sales at Volkswagen AG from 1983. He was given responsibility for sales in North-West Europe at the Volkswagen brand from 1995. He moved to China as First Vice President and CFO of FAW-Volkswagen in 1997. He became Head of Sales Germany for the Volkswagen brand in 2000, Board Member for Sales at Škoda Auto in 2004, Head of Sales Volkswagen Genuine Parts in 2009, and Head of Group Services in 2011.

Michael Mauer (53) will lead Group Design – in addition to his present function at Porsche. Mauer studied vehicle design and began his career at Mercedes-Benz in 1986, holding various functions until 2000, including design responsibility for the A-Class, SLK and SL models as well as Smart design. He moved to Saab as Executive Director Design in 2000 and was also given responsibility for Advanced Design at General Motors Europe in 2003. He has been Head of the Design Department at Porsche AG since 2004 and was also given responsibility for styling the 2007 Porsche Cayenne, the Panamera and the 918 Spyder.

Wolfram Thomas (59) takes charge of Group Production. Thomas holds an engineering degree and has been with the Volkswagen Group for 35 years. Following various management functions at Volkswagen, SEAT and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Thomas became manager of Volkswagen's Kassel plant in 1998. He was appointed Executive Vice-President of Production at SEAT in 2002, becoming Deputy President of the brand in 2009, and was subsequently named Group Chief Officer for the Environment, Energy and New Business Areas in 2012.

Ralf-Gerhard Willner (54) will lead Group Product and Modular Toolkit Strategy. Willner is a trained toolmaker and holds a degree in automotive engineering. He began his career at Audi in Ingolstadt in 1987. Following various management functions at Audi and Volkswagen, he was named Head of Development Vehicle Concepts at Audi in Ingolstadt in 2003, assuming responsibility for the same task at Volkswagen Passenger Cars in 2007 before becoming Technical Director at Italdesign Giugiaro in 2010 and returning to Audi AG as Head of Vehicle Concepts in 2013.

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