Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Mueller said some managers are resisting the automaker’s push for a new era of accountability after its emissions fraud, suggesting it could still take years to establish a new corporate culture.
VW’s drive to become more transparent and decentralize power is seen by investors as a key part of its campaign to regain trust following its admission in September 2015 that it cheated on U.S. diesel-emissions tests.
But efforts to convince people in VW’s broad middle management of the need to change are still proving tough 20 months after the scandal broke, Mueller said. The executive became CEO of Volkswagen in September 2015.
“There are definitely people who are longing for the old centralistic leadership,” Mueller said during a discussion with business representatives here Monday. “I don’t know whether you can imagine how difficult it is to change their mindset.”
After Porsche’s ill-fated attempt in 2008 to 2009 to take over VW, it took Mueller three years to establish a new culture at the sports-car maker with its then 12,000 workers and shift the focus back to product, Mueller said of his time as Porsche boss.
“Of course there are anxieties, it’s not an easy undertaking” to overcome VW’s long tradition of management hierarchies, he said. “The only question is how long will it take?”
Separately, Mueller criticized practices of U.S. ride-hailing firm Uber as VW is stepping up efforts to compete in the market for on-demand transportation with its new digital division Moia.
“I would not want us to be compared culturally with Uber,” he said, calling Uber a company that is simple in its structure. “That is no role model for us.”
Mueller reiterated his doubts about a business case for producing battery cells in high-cost Germany even as VW is pondering such a move with a new research facility in Salzgitter.
“Of course we will at some point need many such factories (to mass produce battery cells) around the world,” he said. “But if energy costs in Germany are what they are, then they (factories) will not be based in Germany.”