Note: This article was originally published by Jack Ewing for the New York Times on April 10, 2018. Click here to view the original article.
FRANKFURT — Volkswagen was set on Tuesday to oust Matthias Müller as chief executive as it grapples with a long-running diesel emissions scandal that has cost it billions of dollars, led to the imprisonment of two executives, and scarred the German carmaker’s reputation.
Herbert Diess, a former BMW executive who is in charge of cars sold with the Volkswagen brand, was likely to succeed Mr. Müller, according to two people with knowledge of the internal discussions. The company said earlier on Tuesday that it was considering replacing Mr. Müller, and a final decision is expected by the end of the week.
Mr. Müller, who took over after the company admitted in September 2015that it had cheated on diesel emissions tests, has steadfastly denied any knowledge of the deception. The cheating involved the installation of illegal software in 11 million Volkswagen diesel vehicles, playing a major role in creating a serious air pollution problem in Europe.
Mr. Diess carries less baggage than Mr. Müller, a longtime insider, because he arrived at Volkswagen only a few months before the scandal erupted. And Mr. Diess has led Volkswagen’s push to mass produce electric cars, which are seen as essential to the company’s long-term success.
Volkswagen gave no indication what prompted the management shake-up, two and a half years after the company’s emissions cheating came to light. Under Mr. Müller, sales have held up and the company remains profitable.
But Mr. Müller struggled to deliver on promises to remake Volkswagen’s authoritarian company culture, while the carmaker continued to suffer blows to its reputation.
Volkswagen remains the target of a wide-ranging criminal investigation that has included searches of Mr. Müller’s offices. However, there has been no new revelation that would have prompted Mr. Müller to leave now, said Klaus Ziehe, a spokesman for the prosecutors in Braunschweig who are conducting the inquiry.
Widely respected for his knowledge of cars, Mr. Müller, 64, is a manager of the old school who has spent his entire career at Volkswagen and its subsidiaries. As someone steeped in the company’s top-down, engineer-oriented culture, he may have been ill-suited to lead wholesale change.
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