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Michael Horn, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, is leaving the company six months after the German automaker admitted to rigging U.S. diesel emissions tests.
Mr. Horn, 54, is leaving "by mutual agreement" to pursue other interests, effective immediately, VW said in a statement today. He will be replaced on an interim basis by Hinrich Woebcken, who on April 1 will take over as head of VW's North American region.
Vinay Shahani, who was named Volkswagen of America's VP-Marketing in 2013, will remain at the company, a VW spokeswoman confirmed to Ad Age.
Mr. Horn's exit comes amid slumping U.S. sales for VW's namesake brand and continued struggles to reach a deal with U.S. environmental regulators for fixes to some 600,000 VW Group vehicles fitted with illegal emissions-masking software.
Mr. Horn, a more than 25-year VW veteran, took the automaker's top U.S. market post in January 2014 and has since earned a reputation as a straight-talker, even when it meant acknowledging VW's past mistakes in the U.S. market. His candor, style and focus on improving dealer profits won him the broad respect among VW's U.S. retailers, some of whom issued a statement Wednesday blasting his departure as a "serious blow."
"The [VW] National Dealer Advisory Council wants to acknowledge Michael for his leadership and strength through the continued mismanagement of the diesel scandal that has plagued our sales and reputation more than any other global market," VW's dealer council said in a statement.
VW's dealer council members praised Mr. Horn's leadership while blasting the "continued mismanagement" of the diesel scandal, saying they were "deeply concerned" about the leadership change.
"There is no sense of a resolution to the diesel scandal," the dealer council said. "We are troubled watching the mismanagement of this scandal from Germany, and how it may impact the ultimate decisions by the authorities in the United States. This change in management can only serve to put the company at more risk, not less."
-Ryan Beene is a reporter for Automotive News.