Woebcken has a wealth of experience, coming to VW from industrial brake manufacturer Knorr-Bremse, where he headed up the commercial vehicles systems division. Prior to that, he spent ten years at BMW in purchasing.
Woebcken arrives at Volkswagen at a tumultuous time, particularly in North America. The automaker is in the midst of cleaning up in the wake of the diesel emissions debacle, and recently cleaned house of its top executives – including its global chief executive, with Martin Winterkorn replaced by former Porsche chief Matthias Müller. The new chief recently made waves when he told National Public Radio that VW "didn't lie" to federal investigators about the level of pollution emitted by its diesel engines. Job one for Woebcken will surely be to fix VW's image in North America in the wake of Müller's comments and the greater emissions scandal.
Back at the head office, the Volkswagen brand has also reconfigured its vehicle development structure, which has now been aligned under four vehicle types. Development of small cars like the Up! and Polo (as well as future small SUVs) will be headed by product management chief Klaus-Gerhard Wolpert. Compact vehicles like the Golf will be developed by electrical systems purchasing manager Kalheinz Hell. Product control chief Dr. Elmar-Marius Licharz will oversee mid- and full-size vehicles like the Passat and Touareg. And battery electric vehicles will be handled by Christian Senger, who moves to VW from supplier Continental AG.
Wolfsburg/Herndon, 19 January 2016 – Volkswagen has appointed Hinrich J. Woebcken Head of the North America region effective April 1, 2016. He therefore assumes responsibility for all the activities of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand in the region. The company is thus moving forward with strategic reinforcement in the regions and is bundling development, procurement, production and sales activities in the USA, Mexico and Canada.
Woebcken also becomes Chairman of Volkswagen Group of America, Volkswagen Mexico and Volkswagen Group Canada. The function of President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America remains unchanged. Michael Horn continues to hold this post. Prior to joining Volkswagen Woebcken was a Member of the Executive Board and CEO Commercial Vehicle Systems Division at Knorr Bremse AG.
The Volkswagen brand CEO, Dr. Herbert Diess, underscored: "The USA is and will remain a key core market for the Volkswagen brand. That is why the North American Region must be steered in the interest of our customers and dealers there. With his international experience Mr. Woebcken will make an important contribution to the brand's positive development in the region."
Hinrich J. Woebcken (55) is an industrial engineer with extensive international experience in procurement, production and sales. He began his professional career in 1985 as a production engineer and assembly section manager in the Injection Moulding Machinery Division of Krauss-Maffei AG, later becoming Head of Division, Standard Machinery, and Global Head of Sales and Marketing. In 1998 Woebcken moved to Dürr AG where he was Managing Director, Sales and Marketing until 2004. In that year he joined BMW AG, first as Division Manager Technical Purchasing and later as Division Manager Purchasing Vehicle Contract Manufacturing, Raw Materials Management, Indirect Purchasing. He was subsequently appointed Division Manager Driving Dynamics (purchasing, production, development/process chain) for all BMW Group product lines. Woebcken was named a Member of the Executive Board and CEO Commercial Vehicle Systems Division at Knorr Bremse AG in 2014.
Volkswagen brand repositions its vehicle development organisation
Pooling responsibility for technology, quality, profitability and deadlines
The Volkswagen brand repositioned its organisation for vehicle development at the beginning of the year. Chairman of the Board of Management Dr Herbert Diess emphazises, "We have to ensure that the corporate responsibility for each vehicle project is clearly assigned. We expect these changes to yield an acceleration boost in development. This step represents a core element of 'New Volkswagen', the new strategic direction of our brand."
Cross-functional collaboration will be strengthened as a result: from the concept to the end of the life-cycle for any given model, the responsibility for technology, quality, cost and deadline compliance, and the responsibility for cost-effectiveness, now clearly lie in one hand for the first time. Until now, these responsibilities were distributed across different divisions and differentiated into individual models groups as well.
The new organisation bundles the competencies into four series groups containing several model series:
1. Small: The small vehicles group such as up! and Polo includes saloon cars as well as small SUVs in future and is headed up by Klaus-Gerhard Wolpert (59), who has led product management for the Volkswagen brand and the Group since 2010.
2. Compact: Also known as the Golf-class group, this group ranges from hatchback and notchback saloon cars and estate cars to SUVs. Karlheinz Hell (52), who has been Group Purchasing Manager for Electrics/ Electronics at Volkswagen since 2014, takes over the management.
3. Mid- and Full-size: This product portfolio ranges from the Passat to the Sharan, and the future mid-size SUV to the Touareg, and is headed up by Dr Elmar-Marius Licharz (45) who has led Product Controlling at Volkswagen AG for Volkswagen brand since 2010.
4. BEV: Battery Electric Vehicles are already present in the brand in the form of e-up!* and e-Golf**. E-vehicles with a greater range will follow in the next step to be developed in this group. The BUDD-e concept car presented at the 2016 CES represents an example of this. The BEV series group is headed up by Christian Senger (41), who comes to Volkswagen from Continental AG, where he led the Automotive Systems and Technology division.
A newly created Strategy and Products Division will also act as a strong partner in supporting each manager responsible for the various series. The responsibilities here will include the definition of life-cycles and coordination of major product events.
"This allows us to provide clear structures and responsibilities, which carve out more time for the workforce to focus on their core tasks. Personal responsibility, initiative and team-spirit will be strengthened as a result," states Dr Herbert Diess, explaining the new structure in its role as a core element for the change in culture at Volkswagen.
At the same time, the concern here is one of adapting to future requirements arising from progressive digitization, electric mobility and changing customer needs. Diess: "The new series organisation allows a robust product portfolio to be created that is fit for the future, because it strengthens cooperation across all functions hence increasing the profitability of the brand."