Porsche chief Mueller favourite to be VW's new CEO

25th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

Matthias Mueller, head of luxury sportscar maker Porsche, looks set to take the steering wheel at scandal-hit Volkswagen, replacing Martin Winterkorn who stepped down two days ago.

VW's supervisory board was scheduled to approve the appointment of the 62-year-old manager, at a meeting in the carmaker's headquarters in Wolfsburg, northern Germany, on Friday morning.

Mueller, born in the former East Germany, had already been tipped to take over during a bitter leadership struggle earlier this year between Winterkorn and his one-time mentor and former supervisory board chief Ferdinand Piech.

It was Winterkorn who eventually won that battle, only to fall this week over the pollution cheating scandal, the biggest ever to hit VW.

Both Mueller's and Winterkorn's careers are closely interlinked.

They already worked together at VW's top-line brand, Audi, in Ingolstadt in Bavaria, where Mueller began his career and Winterkorn was appointed chief in 2002.

And at more or less the same time that Winterkorn was appointed CEO at the entire VW group in 2007, Mueller went to Wolfsburg, too, where he took charge of the projects department and was subsequently made a general representative of the group.

- Football fan -

Born on June 9, 1953, in Limbach-Oberfrohna in former East Germany, Mueller fled to the West, to the neighbouring regional state of Bavaria, with his parents.

He told the daily Die Welt that he originally wanted to become a professional football player.

And he is still a keen soccer fan and supporter of FC-Bayern and Stuttgarter-Kickers, according to the mass-circulation daily Bild.

But in the end, Mueller trained as a tool maker at Audi and went on to study information technology in Munich.

According to Die Welt, Mueller is a man "who loves cars and who loves people who love cars."

His first car was a VW Beetle and he now owns an Audi TT and Porsche 911, according to Bild. And he occasionally likes to go for a jaunt in the legendary Porsche 550 Spyder sports car that he borrows from Porsche's own museum.

Die Welt dubbed him "the imperturbable" and said he was someone who knows how to use his elbows.

"But I don't see it as playing foul, rather as a sign of perseverance and mettle," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Uwe Hueck, head of Porsche's works committee, said Mueller "has the whiff of Porsche about him. His engine is seated lower and he has wide tyres."

Mueller -- who tends to lapse into a strong Bavarian dialect when not on duty -- was appointed CEO at Porsche in 2010, not long after VW had emerged victorious in its tortuous takeover battle with Porsche.

As far back as 2005, Porsche hatched an audacious plan to take control of VW which was 15 times larger than Porsche.

But the plan ran out of steam a result of the financial crisis and failed to win enough support from VW's shareholders. This led to VW turning the tables on Porsche and taking over the sports car maker.

As Porsche CEO, Mueller also sits on Volkswagen's management board.

In March this year, he was able to present record annual sales, turnover and profit for the sportscar maker.

"Porsche has come along very successfully and is now in better shape than ever before," he beamed.

- Management style -

In a recent interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Mueller noted the difference in the corporate cultures of both companies.

Porsche was "almost like a family company with 20,000 employees," while VW in Wolfsburg "was in charge of 600,000 people around the world," he said.

Different management styles were therefore needed.

"Just because something works here with us in Stuttgart, that doesn't mean to say it will function in Wolfsburg," Mueller said.

He saw himself as an "approachable team-player", who tried "to push through his decisions in a collegial and harmonious way."

But Mueller added that he could also be "pretty forceful. I don't like it when things are talked to death."

In the public debate about the massive influx of refugees into Germany, Mueller takes a very clear stance.

"We have to oppose and stand up to extremism," he told Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"People from 56 different countries work at Porsche. I don't think I need to say any more."

It was high time that "industry bosses made their opinions known about certain issues," he said.

If Mueller does take over from Winterkorn at the helm of VW, one of Germany's biggest companies, his words are likely to carry even more clout.

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© 2015 AFP

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