Volkswagen just announced that Michael Horn, the company's top executive in the US, is leaving the company effective immediately. In his place, VW USA Chairman Hinrich Woebcken will take over the CEO job on an interim basis.
The company is clear to note that Horn is leaving "to pursue other opportunities," but it's hard to ignore his presence in the wake of the diesel emissions cheating scandal that has rocked Volkswagen over the last half year. His boss, Volkswagen brand CEO Herbert Diess, says that Horn "showed exemplary leadership during difficult times for the brand," but it seems very, very likely that the departure is part of a house-cleaning that has claimed staff at many levels of the company — including ousted Chariman Martin Winterkorn.
Many will remember Horn's awkward presence at Volkswagen's Passat debut event in New York just days after news of the diesel scandal first broke, leaving him with the unenviable task of powering through a product launch while simultaneously issuing the first of many corporate mea culpas. "We have totally screwed up," he said on stage at the time.
Considering the array of ongoing legal proceedings happening both in the US and globally related to the cheating — which affects millions of cars — it's entirely possible that we'll see Horn make some more statements before this is all said and done. But for now, it's on to "other opportunities."
We've reached out to Volkswagen for comment.