Volkswagen AG will elevate Porsche chief Oliver Blume to replace Herbert Diess, who will leave his position leading the world’s second-largest automaker in a surprise shake-up.
Diess will vacate his post by Sept. 1, the company said Friday. New Chief Executive Officer Blume, who will continue his role as the head of the Porsche brand, will be flanked by VW’s current Chief Financial Officer Arno Antlitz, who will assume the position of chief operating officer.
His abrupt departure marks the culmination of frequent clashes with the German manufacturer’s powerful labor unions and other key stakeholders over a deeper strategic overhaul and cost cuts, and may prompt concern among investors. Volkswagen is in the midst of planning an initial public offering of Porsche, its most prized brand, to raise fresh funds for electrification and software investments.
Diess, 63, was hired away from BMW AG in 2015, shortly before VW admitted to rigging millions of diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. He’s arguably pushed the most aggressive electrification effort among legacy car manufacturers, earning plaudits from the likes of Tesla Inc. boss Elon Musk.
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.