VW brand gets Porsche veteran as sales chief

Europe

FRANKFURT — Volkswagen Group named Porsche veteran Klaus Zellmer as the new head of sales and marketing at the automaker’s namesake brand.

Zellmer succeeds Jürgen Stackmann, who is leaving the company, VW said in a statement on Tuesday. Zellmer, 53, moves to the new post from his role as head of Porsche North America.

Kjell Gruner, 53, will take over as CEO of Porsche Cars North America. Gruner is Porsche’s chief marketing officer and global vice president of marketing.

Zellmer’s appointment is the latest in a number of changes at VW in recent months.

Company veteran Ralf Brandstätter was promoted to VW brand CEO in July from chief operating officer after VW Group CEO Herbert Diess was forced to relinquish control over the core brand’s day-to-day operations following a clash with the automaker’s supervisory board.

Since March, VW has had a new finance chief, Alexander Seitz; a new purchasing boss, Murat Aksel; and a new head of production, Christian Vollmer.

Zellmer has been with Porsche for 23 years. He rose through the sales ranks in France and Germany. He was appointed CEO of Porsche’s North American business in 2015 and since then has boosted sales in the key U.S. market by 4.4 percent annually.

In the statement, Brandstätter said Zellmer possessed a “deep understanding” of the international auto industry.

“Together with him, we will systematically continue to pursue the course set by New Volkswagen,” Brandstätter said in a statement, referring to the new push into electric vehicles with models such as the ID3 hatchback and the upcoming ID4 crossover.

Stackmann’s departure was leaked to the media in July amid disappointing sales of the new Golf, which had its European launch right at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike in previous generations, the new Golf did not immediately surpass rival compact hatchbacks in European sales and German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that Stackmann had been criticized for insufficient marketing.

Stackmann was also among the top-level VW brand executives who had to apologize in June for a racist video.

Company sources told Automotive News Europe that the pending expiration of his contract after five years as sales and marketing chief was seen as a good time to part ways.

VW brand’s global deliveries fell 27 percent in the first half to 2.2 million vehicles.

A former Ford of Europe manager, Stackmann, 59, held various positions at VW during his 10 years at the group, including a period as CEO at Spanish subsidiary Seat, where he restructured the chronic money loser and launched the Ateca SUV that symbolized the brand’s new focus on sleek crossovers.

Stackmann took over as VW brand sales and marketing chief in November 2015 when the brand was in the midst of a collapse in sales following the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal uncovered six weeks prior to his start.

Most recently he gave the VW brand a new look and overhauled dealer contracts in Europe in preparation for the launch of the ID family of electric cars.

Stackmann also was a driving force behind the new entry subbrand Jetta in China.

“I’m now going on temporary business mute. Let’s see where life’s endeavors will take us and where we reconnect,” he told his followers on Twitter. “And continue to love Volkswagen.”

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