Volkswagen announced Wednesday that it’s new head of North American operations would leave the company less than three weeks after taking the job in the midst of an emissions scandal.
The loss of Winfried Vahland will add more instability to the Germany-based company rocked by evidence that it engineered a massive program to cheat on pollutant emissions testing conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Vahland, formerly the head of Volkswagen’s Skoda brand based in the Czech Republic, was brought in Sept. 25 to lead the North American division.
Vahland’s departure after 25 years at Volkswagen was caused by a difference in opinion about how to restructure the troubled brand, according to the company.
“Differing views on the organization of the new Group region have led to this decision; this decision is expressly not related to current events on the issue of diesel engines,” Volkswagen explained in a statement Wednesday.
Still, the corporate shake-up does not portend a promising near future for the brand in the United States.
In the days following the fraud allegations in September, the company’s chief executive resigned as Volkswagen set aside 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) to prepare for a recall of 11 million vehicles in the United States and elsewhere.
International bank Credit Suisse announced earlier this month that it expected the cost to be much higher, claiming the scandal could cost the company 78 billion euros ($87 billion). That figure is 60 percent higher than what BP paid out in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Volkswagen has not named a new head of North American operations, but thanked Vahland for his work.
“In the last 25 years, Professor Vahland made a great contribution to the company,” the company’s new CEO Matthias Mueller said in a release. “We respect his decision and thank him for his exceptional performance,” he said.
By Barry Eitel