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VW production chief leaves amid MQB problems

Departed: One-time head of Porsche Michael Macht has stepped down from his role as production chief for the VW Group as it grapples with problems related to the MQB modular platform.

Global VW production boss out the door as reports point to issues with MQB platform

Volkswagen logo15 Aug 2014

By TERRY MARTIN

VOLKSWAGEN Group’s board member responsible for production, Michael Macht, has left the company amid reports that the European automotive giant is experiencing problems related to its new MQB modular platform.

In a statement, Volkswagen AG said Dr Macht stepped down from his post “by mutual agreement” with the supervisory board and that Thomas Ulbrich, who is in charge of production for Volkswagen passenger cars, will assume responsibility for global production until a successor has been appointed.

Company chairman Martin Winterkorn said: “Michael Macht has taken the Volkswagen production system further forward. We would like to thank him for his achievements.”

Dr Macht, 53, had been in the position since 2010 and is credited with taking Volkswagen Group’s annual production volume from 6.7 million units to almost 10 million.

Crucially, he oversaw the introduction of the MQB platform, which has transverse-mounted engines as its core element and is a key part of Volkswagen’s global expansion program and its strategy to topple Toyota as the world’s biggest-selling motor company.

MQB, which is a German acronym for Modular Transverse Matrix, will underpin as many as 60 models across a variety of segments, from sub-compact passenger cars to mid-size SUVs, for several brands including Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat.

The single architecture and commonality of parts across these high-volume vehicles are designed to deliver massive savings – from engineering through to manufacturing – however overseas reports indicate that problems have surfaced with its implementation at the factory level, leading to unexpected cost blowouts and delays in production of various models including the top-selling VW Golf.

German news outlet Der Spiegel reported prior to Dr Macht’s departure that his job was on the line after expensive new manufacturing equipment failed to work properly once installed.

The company has developed a new modular production system in parallel with the MQB platform, enabling it to produce different MQB-based models – even those of different brands – on the same production line using the same robots.

Dr Macht was chief executive at Porsche before moving across to VW, having risen to the top job at the Stuttgart-based sportscar marque in 2009 when Wendelin Wiedeking was forced out after Porsche’s failed bid to take over Volkswagen.

Dr Macht, who joined Porsche in 1990 and had spent several years as production and logistics chief, subsequently played a key role in integrating Porsche into the VW Group as the tables turned.

A year later, though, he was reassigned to Wolfsburg as production chief for the group to make way for VW product strategy expert Matthias Mueller, who was considered better suited to facilitating Porsche’s expansion with all-new models such as the Macan compact SUV.

In leaving VW this month, Dr Macht said: “The Volkswagen Group and its employees are unique and I am deeply grateful to have been part of this company.

“I am convinced the group will continue its successful and sustainable growth of recent years,” he said.

Mr Macht is the second senior Volkswagen executive to leave in recent weeks, following the unexpected departure of global marketing boss Simon Thomas.

As GoAuto has reported, Mr Thomas was in the position for less than 12 months.

He had stepped up last September to replace Juergen Stackmann, who was appointed chairman of Seat earlier in the year.

Mr Thomas has been replaced by Xavier Chardon, who was previously head of European sales for VW passenger cars.

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