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New Porsche CEO named

2010-07-07 09:42
Volkswagen AG named Matthias Mueller, its top car strategist, as the new chief executive of Porsche AG in a bid to tighten its grip on the iconic sports car brand.

The 57-year-old Bavarian was welcomed on Tuesday by Porsche's top labour boss, but has to be careful not to be labeled an outsider among a workforce that only last year still believed it would acquire Volkswagen, not the other way around.

"That Bavarian dialect of his will be noticed, I'm sure. There is a certain amount of pride among the Swabians, and people here may need to get used to the idea of a CEO here who is not a Porsche man," an insider at the sports car maker said.

Under former chief Wendelin Wiedeking, Porsche nearly bankrupted itself trying to take over its much larger peer, letting VW turn the tables on its aggressor, sack the management and seal the right to acquire full ownership of the brand and operating assets behind the famed 911 Carrera.

"The decision to name Mueller makes sense since he has all the information about the VW group's product strategy and knows how Porsche can fit into this new structure," said the insider, who declined to be named, adding that the company was on a one-year "self-discovery journey" after its near collapse.

Outgoing Porsche AG chief Michael Macht, an expert in production, will take over as head of the VW group's vast manufacturing network, but has likely disqualified himself as a potential successor to VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn.

"Too few guidelines, too few targets and clear directions," said one source at Porsche, adding 20-year company veteran Macht lacked the vision to turn the sportscar maker around after getting the top job when Wiedeking was ejected last year.

"In production, you have clearly defined, self-contained loops based on a set of parameters given to you. It is not your responsibility to make the big decisions, the political decisions," said the source, who declined to be named.

Truck role

An expert in "lean manufacturing" - cutting waste and slashing inventories to conserve cash - Macht oversaw Porsche's factories and ran a consulting firm that implemented similar just-in-time production methods at companies like Lufthansa

"Macht may be an excellent production guy, but being chief of production is a relatively dry position. If you're talking about Porsche, exactly a brand like that needs nothing less than an absolute car fanatic to personify it," a VW source said.

Macht, 49, will take over from VW production boss Jochem Heizmann, who is set to manage the testy alliance between MAN and Scania, truckmakers that both count VW as their largest shareholder.

"Taking responsibility for the trucks business, one in which our chairman (Ferdinand Piech) has taken a personal interest, is a high-profile and tricky assignment," said another VW source.

"The marching route is relatively clear for Porsche. It might make it easier with a Winterkorn lieutenant at the helm, but it won't lead to any estimate revisions so it's not relevant for the share price," one sell-side analyst in Germany said.

"The two drivers of the stock are how far and how fast Porsche can reduce debt as well as the litigation risks."


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