Volkswagen’s Czech automaker Skoda Auto named VW’s South Africa boss Thomas Schaefer as its new chairman on Monday as part of a broader shake-up at the automaker.
Schaefer is taking the position of Bernhard Maier, who left the Czech automaker last month after almost five years during which he led the 125-year-old Skoda to record profits.
Skoda is the central European nation’s biggest exporter, but its success has sometimes caused friction within Volkswagen, whose labor boss has been critical about it for cannibalizing sales.
The Czech automaker delivered 1.24 million cars globally in 2019, with China and Germany as its top markets. Like other automakers, Skoda is dealing with the impact of coronavirus led lockdowns and now faces uncertainty over demand.
However, it stated last week it observed signs of recovery after first-half deliveries declined 31% and the group’s CEO Herbert Diess told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that Skoda – one of VW’s 12 brands – required to do more to compete with rivals.
Labour unions, traditionally strong at Skoda Auto, said it was not clear what Schaefer’s appointment would mean for the direction of the automaker.
Schaefer, who takes up the position with immediate effect, joined Volkswagen from Mercedes-Benz in 2012 and has since 2015 led Volkswagen Group South Africa, which produces vehicles and engines mostly for export. It hit record output during the last year.
Schaefer also worked for VW’s broader African business and spearheaded the development of production hubs in African nations including Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya.