Mueller says changing Volkwagen culture proving harder than expected

CEO Matthias Mueller

Some Volkswagen managers are having a hard time to adapt to the German automaker’s drive to enhance accountability following its diesel emissions, its CEO stated, recommending it could take years to develop a new corporate culture.

The effort by the world’s biggest automaker to become more transparent and decentralize power is seen by financiers as a crucial part of its project to restore trust following its admission of emissions scandal in 2015.

However trying to persuade Volkswagen managers of the need to alter is still showing tough 20 months after “dieselgate” broke, according to Matthias Mueller, who became CEO a week after the scandal emerged in September 2015.

“There are certainly people who are longing for the old centralistic management,” Mueller said during a conversation with service representatives late on Monday. “I don’t know whether you can think of how difficult it is to alter the state of mind.”

Prior to “dieselgate”, there was a severe deference to authority at the automaker and a closed-off corporate culture that some critics say might have been a reason in the cheating.

Among his top priorities since taking the helm has been to decentralize power and reform the command-and-control structure that prevailed under previous bosses Martin Winterkorn and Ferdinand Piech, Mueller stated.

When the cheating was revealed, Mueller guaranteed VW would learn from its mistakes and introduce modifications to prevent such a scandal from repeating, but on Monday he admitted the job was more difficult than anticipated.

“You are completely caught in a field of tension based on the concern of how much (decentralization) can the company endure and what does it cost? can it not,” he stated.

“The process (of modification) has been started but it’s a process,” Mueller stated. “One now has to withstand this, also as chief (executive), that some things go wrong and some things stay unsuccessful while other things succeed.”

Numerous mid-level managers grew under pre-dieselgate plans that permitted them to shift responsibility to others, and they are having a hard time to welcome Mueller’s drive for openness and management, sources at Volkswagen have informed Reuters.

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