The reorganization of Volkswagen group is taking shape following the supervisory board's November 23 approval of the new structure.
Major changes won't be fully implemented until a series of personnel moves takes place in early March. But the vision of future Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder is already apparent.
Pischetsrieder will have more duties than current Chairman Ferdinand Piech, for one. And in addition to the expected changes at the top level of management, VW has created a special position for Audi CEO Franz-Josef Paefgen.
Paefgen was originally expected to leave under VW's reorganization. Instead, he will become head of Bentley and Rolls-Royce.
VW will turn its attention this week to a broad series of reassignments for more junior managers.
'It is obvious that with a new top management in a new organization, some operational functions will change as well,' a VW spokesman said. 'The next six to eight weeks will be decisive for more managers in the second and third management levels.'
Volkswagen may even use the changes as an opportunity to eliminate a complete management level, other sources within VW said.
Under the new structure, VW will be split into two broad product groups - one led by the Volkswagen brand, the other by Audi.
The reorganization means Seat and Lamborghini will become part of a new 'sporty' Audi group. It will be headed by Martin Winterkorn, now chief of product development for VW group, who was named chairman of Audi effective March 1, replacing Paefgen.
A 'classic' Volkswagen brand group to include VW, Skoda, Bentley and Bugatti will be led by Pischetsrieder.
With the two brand groups in place, VW intends to cut the number of board members, or even scrap regional management boards.
'Streamlining the organization is one aspect of the new strategy,' a VW spokesman said.
In the new structure:
* Bernd Pischetsrieder has several areas of responsibility, in addition to his future role as VW group chairman and head of the 'classic' VW brand group. He will assume direct responsibility for product development for the entire VW group, succeeding Winterkorn. He will also retain his current responsibility for VW group quality.
* Andreas Schleef, board member at Audi, will succeed Pischetsrieder as chairman of Seat.
* Jorn Hinrichs, currently Seat's sales and marketing chief, will move from Barcelona to Wolfsburg to head the 'classic' VW brand group's sales and marketing. He will replace Bertholt Kruger, who goes to Brazil.
* Besides his job as chairman of the board at Rolls-Royce and Bentley, Paefgen will lead VW group research and take charge of motor racing activities. Paefgen will have an office in Crewe, England, and a second office in Wolfsburg.
Paefgen won't sit on the VW management board, but he will get 'general power of attorney.' This special position has been created for Paefgen because VW wants to limit the number of board members.
* Cosworth, the UK technology subsidiary that is owned by Audi, will become part of Martin Winterkorn's duties in his new function as CEO of the 'sporty' Audi group.
* Volkswagen has not yet announced who will succeed Wilfried Bockelmann as Skoda board member with responsibility for research and development. Bockelmann will become the 'classic' VW brand group's board member for research and development.
'It may well be that he [Bockelmann] won't be succeeded at all at Skoda, because Volkswagen and Skoda are in the same brand group, and we will try to avoid double functions,' a VW source said.
* Robert Buchelhofer, who has signed on at VW for another two years, will get global responsibility for sales and marketing. 'Some regional responsibilities will come under his management,' the source said.
Meanwhile, dealers and distributors say the brand-grouping strategy will help reduce product overlap.
'It will become more transparent for the customer, with less risk of [sales] cannibalization,' said a Skoda distributor. 'But if Skoda is positioned more as family car brand, as opposed to Seat's future sporty image, I think we will need a car like the Seat Alhambra minivan. That is one of the opportunities of the new brand group strategy.'
Michael Lamlee, general manager of the European Audi and VW dealer council, said: 'The reorganization won't affect the dealer network structure because each brand will be operated from individual front offices. The new brand group strategy will only affect the development of new models and the individual positioning of the brands. That will prevent cannibalization on one hand, but will also create opportunities to develop models in niches where some of the current VW brands have not been present.'
Development of more individual brand models is easier since VW changed its platform strategy a year ago. Instead of using rigid platforms, such as for the latest VW Polo, Skoda Fabia and Seat Ibiza, VW will develop future cars based on shared modular systems.