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VW product specialist named Porsche CEO

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VW product specialist named Porsche CEO

Christine Tierney / The Detroit News

Sports car manufacturer Porsche AG, now under the control of Volkswagen AG, has tapped a VW product specialist to be its chief executive to press ahead with the integration of Porsche into VW, Europe's largest carmaker.

Matthias Müller, 57, previously head of product planning for VW, will replace Michael Macht, 49, who will join VW's management board with responsibility for production for all brands.

The appointments take effect Oct. 1, the two companies said Tuesday.

While Macht's transfer is viewed as a good move for him and for Volkswagen, Müller's appointment signals that VW is moving forcefully to herd Porsche into the fold with its other brands, including Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Skoda and Seat.

Analysts say some Porsche managers have resisted VW's strategy of sharing platforms and component systems across all of its brands -- a strategy that Müller was helping to execute.

But Wolfgang Porsche, chairman of Porsche's supervisory board, backed the changes. "Matthias Müller gives us the exceptional competence of an outstanding product expert benefiting the interaction of independent brands within an integrated automotive group," he said.

Macht, on the other hand, was close to former Porsche Chief Executive Wendelin Wiedeking, who was ousted a year ago after his bid to take over Volkswagen failed and provoked a counterbid.

"Michael Macht took over the leadership of Porsche AG in a period crucial to the company," Wolfgang Porsche said in a statement. "Through his skill and many years of experience within the Porsche group, he has succeeded in restabilizing the company within a short time."

Wolfgang Porsche is a grandson of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche, as is Ferdinand Piëch, the chairman of VW's supervisory board. The cousins found themselves on opposing sides of a takeover fight that ended with VW in control of Porsche, and the Porsche and Piëch families taking a substantial stake in VW.

Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn is now CEO of Porsche Automobil Holding SE, the sports car manufacturer's parent company, and VW Chief Financial Officer Hans Dieter Pötsch also holds that position at Porsche Automobil Holding.

In making the latest appointments, Volkswagen secured the crucial backing of Porsche's employee representatives.

"From numerous talks with Matthias Müller, I know that he will maintain Porsche's unique and independent position," said Uwe Hück, head of Porsche AG's Group Works Council.

"We already see him today as a genuine 'Porsche man' enabling us to really push down the throttle at all our plants," he said. "We give him our full support."

Despite the bitterness of the takeover fight, most analysts expect VW to be a good steward for Porsche, as it has been for its other premium brands.

Porsche already uses some VW components. Its Cayenne SUV, for instance, shares underpinnings with the VW Touareg, and VW makes parts for the four-door Porsche Panamera.

Analysts see Porsche benefiting from VW's purchasing power and technical capabilities. One of the world's leading car companies, with sales of 6.29 million vehicles in 2009, VW aims to be the largest automaker by 2018, supplanting Toyota Motor Corp.

Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based analyst at Credit Suisse, told Bloomberg News that Müller was well-connected within VW and well-placed to integrate Porsche into the big carmaker.

Müller's previous jobs at VW included four years running product management at Audi.

But VW will also draw benefits from the talent and experience in the ranks of Porsche executives. Macht is an expert in the renowned Toyota Production System, said Christoph Stürmer, a director at IHS Automotive in Frankfurt, Germany.

"Porsche was the first company in Europe to apply the Toyota Production System," Stürmer said. "Now that VW has decided to take on Toyota, it's perfect for them to have an expert in the Toyota Production System, and they're using him to the fullest by putting him in charge of production."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100707/AUTO01/7070325/1148/auto01/VW-product-specialist-named-Porsche-CEO#ixzz0t01VRdgA

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