Wolfgang Bernhard has announced his departure as CEO of Volkswagen effective from the end of this month. The move, largely expected following recent board room upheavals at Europe’s number one car maker, appears to leave the steely German with an uncertain future.
However, rumours in the German automotive industry suggest Bernhard may not be cooling his heels for long. Suggestions are that he is strongly considering a return to his former employer DaimlerChrysler to head the Chrysler Group’s operations in North America.
Together with DaimlerChrysler chairman, Dieter Zetsche, Bernhard was one of the main architects of Chrysler’s financial turn-around during the early part of this decade, and he remains highly regarded by many of its top managers. Contractual obligations are said to prohibit Bernhard from working for a rival car maker for up to two years following his brief stint in Wolfsburg. Still, insiders suggest he has negotiated a deal with incoming VW chairman, Martin Winterkorn, that will allow him to do so.
Bernhard joined Volkswagen on 1 May 2005 after he was overlooked as chairman of Mercedes-Benz. As head of the VW brand, he instigated sweeping efficiency measures at the German car maker’s Wolfsburg headquarters and other European production plants in a bid to improve its sagging profitability. He also set about diversifying VW’s line-up with the addition of new models, including the upcoming Scirocco, Tiguan and a four-door coupe based on the Passat.