In all of the dieselgate scandal, this news was a real surprise: Yesterday evening in the U.S., or in the middle of the night in Germany, “Volkswagen Group of America announced the departure of Michael Horn, president and CEO,” and that he “will be leaving to pursue other opportunities effective immediately.” Wondering why, German reporters called this morning on their usually communicative source in Volkswagen’s Supervisory Board. They found perplexed sources, but no answers. The Wolfsburg rumor mill usually knows long before the official announcement. This time, colleagues of Horn, contacted today, were completely confounded.
So why did Horn go?
Nobody knows. Even Germany’s BILD Zeitung, the paper that prides itself of knowing everything first, can only ask “Stepped down or kicked out?” Today, Volkswagen’s PR department put on its straightest faces and told inquiring journalists that Horn is “leaving at his own request.” Even if you leave in a hurry at Volkswagen, it usually takes a few months, and it is timed with the end of a quarter, not for the 9th of March.
So what’s the hurry?
A usually reliable source at Volkswagen tells me that this time, Volkswagen’s spokesfolk may be telling the truth, and that Michael Horn really wants to get out fast, not just out of Volkswagen, but out of America. “He’s personally named in a huge lawsuit,” the source tells me. “Each day, more stuff pops up for which he was responsible, or for which he’s being made responsible. This is not survivable.”