Michael Horn, the president and CEO of Volkswagen’s US operations, abruptly resigned on Wednesday after two years in the post, the New York Times‘ Jad Mouawad reports. Hinrich J. Woebcken, recently appointed head of the North American region and chairman of Volkswagen Group of America, will take his place. Horn’s departure, on which the auto maker did not comment except to say that it was decided by “mutual agreement,” comes after months-long series of resignations and reorganizations in the wake of an emissions cheating scandal that has already cost the company billions.
The Times report notes that Horn had played a key role in managing Volkswagen’s relations with its American dealerships amid declining sales and increasing frustration with the company’s leadership in Germany. As Mouawad describes, his absence is already making dealers nervous:
Alan Brown, who is the chairman of the Volkswagen National Dealer Advisory Council and runs two Volkswagen dealerships in Texas, said Mr. Horn’s departure was a serious blow.
“We are troubled watching the mismanagement of this scandal from Germany, and how it may impact the ultimate decisions by the authorities in the United States,” the Volkswagen dealers association said in a statement. “This change in management can only serve to put the company at more risk, not less.”
This latest development was not entirely unexpected—USA Today prematurely reported Horn’s resignation as the scandal was breaking last September, shortly after CEO Martin Winterkorn stepped down. Brown told Reuters that Horn had been offered other positions at Volkswagen outside the US, but had declined them.