Diess’ future at Volkswagen has been in doubt on multiple occasions during his four-year stint as CEO, most recently late last year over clashes with the company’s powerful works council about his electrification strategy and management style.
His departure comes as the company is pushing to beat Tesla to become the world’s top electric vehicle maker, catch up on software and execute an IPO for Porsche.
Diess, in a LinkedIn post before the announcement of his departure, said: “After a really stressful first half of 2022 many of us are looking forward to a well-deserved summer break.”
“My focus will be on the customers, brands and products,” Blume said in a statement.
Diess, 63, becomes the latest in a long line of leaders undone by VW’s complex hodgepodge of power centers. Skirmishes between the manufacturer’s controlling shareholder family, trade union and the German state of Lower Saxony that holds a significant stake have undermined performance and ended careers.
“Herbert Diess has strategically geared Volkswagen group toward electromobility,” Wolfgang Porsche and Hans-Michel Piech, leaders of the family with majority voting rights at VW, said in a joint statement. “It is to his particular credit that the Volkswagen group today is in a strong position for further transformation.”
Diess was hired away from BMW Group in 2015, shortly before VW admitted to rigging millions of diesel vehicles to skirt emissions rules. He’s arguably pushed the most aggressive electrification effort among legacy car manufacturers, earning plaudits from the likes of Tesla Inc. boss Elon Musk.
Some analysts on Friday raised alarm about the management changes.
“The hope of the supervisory board must be for new group CEO Blume to have more success in guiding the software strategy of the group,” Bernstein Research analyst Daniel Roeska said in a note Friday. “However, it will take months to come up with a new plan, and creating unrest as the group is heading into a challenging 2023 is the wrong time, in our view.”
Blume’s dual role leading VW Group and Porsche could “make a bad governance situation worse,” analyst Daniel Roeska of Bernstein Research warned. “We do not think investors will like the CEO-dilution… especially if the IPO was supposed to create greater independence from the Volkswagen Group,” he said.
Volkswagen executives have pegged a possible IPO of Porsche as a means to fund its makeover as an electrification-oriented carmaker spanning software, batteries and cars, though poor market conditions mean a listing could bring in billions less than originally hoped.
“I know Blume always also pushed for the IPO. So don’t think they’ll reverse the decision,” a source close to preparations for the listings said.
Blume, 54, has been touted as a potential successor to Diess for some time, even though any changeover was seen some time off after the outgoing CEO’s contract was extended until 2025. Blume started at VW as a trainee at Audi, then rose through the ranks at Seat and the VW brand before joining Porsche in 2013 as head of production.
He managed to largely contain Porsche’s involvement in VW’s diesel-emissions scandal. The sports-car maker received diesel engines from sister brand Audi, which didn’t comply with emission regulations.
Blume started at VW as a trainee at Audi, then rose through the ranks at Seat and the company’s namesake brand before joining Porsche in 2013 as head of production. He managed to largely contain Porsche’s involvement in the diesel-emissions scandal that cost the manufacturer more than 30 billion euros ($30.7 billion).