Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess is to leave the company at the end of August, to be succeeded by Oliver Blume, the current chief executive of Volkswagen subsidiary Porsche, as of 1 September.

Diess joined the company from BMW in 2015 and stepped into the CEO role following the firm’s Dieselgate scandal, at a time when Volkswagen was looking for a dramatically new direction.

He pioneered massive investments into electric vehicles with a goal of selling millions of EVs by mid-decade and worked to create a software group within VW called Cariad developing new software technologies for the new EV era.

Image credit: Herbert Diess

Tesla fan

He also promised a stock market listing for the Porsche brand, a move intended to help fund the electrification investments.

Diess cited Tesla as his model, rather than conventional automakers such as Toyota or GM, and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk is reported to have offered him the CEO role at Tesla in 2015 before Diess decided to join Volkswagen instead.

In the US Diess’ tenure at Volkswagen was memorable for the return of the VW microbus as an EV and the revival of the Scout truck brand.

He was tasked with dramatically reducing Volkswagen’s costs, which brought him into repeated conflict with labour unions, while the Porsche and Piech families, major Volkswagen shareholders, were concerned Diess’ multi-billion euro investments into EVs and software were not delivering returns fast enough.

‘Turbulent waters’

His departure comes three years before his contract was supposed to end.

Volkswagen didn’t provide a reason for Diess’ departure.

In a statement Volkswagen chair Hans Dieter Potsch said Diess had played a key role in transforming the company.

“Not only did he steer the company through extremely turbulent waters, but he also implemented a fundamentally new strategy,” Potsch said.

New COO

Blume, a career Volkswagen executive, held manufacturing roles at Audi, Spanish brand Seat and at the Volkswagen brand before becoming Porsche’s head of production in 2013 and its chief executive in 2015.

Volkswagen said its chief financial officer Arno Antlitz would take on the additional title of chief operating officer to assist Blume with day-to-day operations.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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