Jonathan Browning is to leave his role as president and chief executive officer of Volkswagen's American operations at the end of the year.
The 54-year-old Briton is said to be leaving the Volkswagen Group of America for personal reasons and will be returning to the UK. He has held the roles since October 2010. He will be replaced by Michael Horn, a 23-year VW veteran who has most recently been working as head of global after sales.
The surprise news comes just weeks after Browning spearheaded Volkswagen's presence at the Los Angeles motor show. There, he spoke about Volkswagen of America's annual sales, which are forecasted to fall slightly this year after three consecutive years of massive growth. VW has a long-held target of an aggressive sales increase to 800,000 units in the US by 2018.
For the year up to December, annual sales were down five per cent compared with 2012, but at the LA show Browning said: “In terms of the sales development of Volkswagen in the US, we’ve seen this tremendous growth from 2009 through to 2012.
"Clearly there's no way that you’re going to sustain a growth rate of those levels over an extended period of time. So in our ten-year growth plan for the US, we always saw a levelling-off of that growth in this period. I think the important thing to understand is this is the second consecutive year above 400,000 unit sales in the US.
"I think it shows that we’ve established a new baseline in terms of our volume and gives us an opportunity to build on that foundation on into the future. It is an important part of our evolution of our presence in the US."