News that Volker Mornhinweg is leaving Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division to head up parent company Daimler’s van operations has been met with a rather large tinge of disappointment at Autocar.
The likable German worked wonders during his five tenure as boss of Mercedes-Benz’s performance car off-shoot, dragging AMG out from the crushing bureaucracy it once operated under to provide it with the sort of arms’ length independence he deemed was required to produce cars with real ability and, as he was always quick impress upon those who would listen, unique character.
Under Mornhinweg, AMG’s operations have grown in overall importance to Mercedes-Benz. More than this, its standing within the performance car community has been bolstered by the improvements he and his team based in the sleepy Swabian town of Affalterbach on the outskirts of Stuttgart have brought to both its regular line-up as well as in the establishment of the hardcore Black Series range.
Unlike others who have headed AMG over the years, Volker knew it would never be enough to simply provide Mercedes-Benz’s go-fast models with stonking straight line performance.
As a result, today’s AMG models are differentiated from their standard siblings in more ways than ever before. He made dynamics a priority from day one and personally backed moves, even those that involved big dips into the budget, that have made the current generation of AMG models the best and most entertaining yet.
I remember the day we arrived at the launch of the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG at Paul Ricard (via helicopter from Nice airport, as you do) and he told me it had a switchable ESP system. He could barely hide his excitement. As we all sat down for lunch after our turn on the circuit he pulled on a helmet and for the next half an hour the assembled hacks were entertained by the rumble of a big V8 and the constant screeching of rubber – something that has become a feature of all subsequent AMG launches.
What made things all the more convincing was the pride Mornhinweg carried when revealing new cars or developments to existing models. Not merely a figure head for the brand, he genuinely believed he was guiding AMG down the right path and, despite the obvious environmental pressures, was convinced it had a truly bright future.
Volker’s crowning achievement during his days in Affalterbach, however, was convincing his superiors at Mercedes-Benz to allow AMG to conceive, develop and ultimately produce a spiritual successor to the 300 SL, the SLS.
His successor, 40-year-old Swede Ola Kaellenius who has headed up Mercedes-Benz’s operations in Tuscaloosa Alabama where the ML, GL and R-class are produced for the last couple of years, certainly has big shoes to fill.