VW taps veteran German exec for top U.S. quality post

Schueller, 52, was most recently head of product safety and reliability at Audi.
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WASHINGTON -- Volkswagen Group of America named Stefan Schueller quality chief for VW and Audi in the United States, replacing the retiring Marc Trahan amid an aggressive localization push.

A native of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, Schueller, 52, was most recently head of product safety and reliability at Audi, and before that, head of procurement -- two positions that will serve him well as Audi builds its first assembly plant in North America.

As executive vice president of group quality, Schueller will oversee the vehicle quality, reliability, and customer satisfaction efforts for the VW and Audi brands in the United States, VW Group said in a statement.

Schueller will be tasked with ensuring that VW’s growing manufacturing presence in the United States and Mexico does not take a toll on product reliability or durability.

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn signaled the expansion in January by announcing the group will invest more than $7 billion in North America through the end of 2018.

Mexico expansion

VW completed a major overhaul of its plant in Puebla, Mexico, in early 2014 to produce the seventh-generation Golf, GTI, Golf SportWagen and other models. Audi broke ground on an assembly plant in San Jose Chiapa, Mexico, in 2013 that will produce the Q5 crossover for both North America and Europe starting in 2016.

This year, VW is also expected to choose a production site for a mid-sized SUV based on the CrossBlue concept from the 2013 Detroit auto show. The leading candidate is widely thought to be VW’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, which started producing the Passat mid-sized sedan in 2011, but Mexico is also in the running.

Warranty costs reduced

Trahan is a 35-year VW veteran who has been credited with reducing VW and Audi's warranty costs and overcoming a reputation in the United States for spotty reliability. He will continue to support the business through the end of the year, VW said.

Warranty costs for the VW brand have plunged by more than half over the past five years, he recently told Automotive News Europe sister publication Automotive News.

Trahan has been credited with reducing VW and Audi's reputation in the U.S. for spotty reliability.

Trahan, 60, “has been integral in establishing quality processes and leading the [technical center] team in Auburn Hills, Michigan,” Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn said in a statement. “His reputation in the industry and passion for cars has made him a true asset to our executive team.”

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com.

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