Volkswagen AG has hired Joerg Sommer – who formerly ran Renault SA's EV brand operations – to be VW's sales director for e-mobility.
Sommer will be in charge of EV sales for all of VW Group's brands worldwide.
Volkswagen's successful courtship of Sommer signals VW CEO Martin Winterkorn's determination to challenge Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, who says his Franco-Japanese alliance will be the first full-line manufacturer to make zero-emission vehicles accessible to the mass market, starting with the Nissan Leaf, which Nissan Motor Co. will begin delivering to European customers in January.
Renault-Nissan has budgeted 4 billion euros to introduce eight different EVs over the next few years. In 2011, Renault will introduce the Fluence, Kangoo, Twizy and Zoe EVs.
By contrast, VW's won't have any EVs until 2013, when the VW Golf blue-e-motion, E-Up and E-Jetta go on sale. By 2018, VW is targeting annual global EV sales of 300,000 units. Without being more specific, Renault-Nissan has said it aims to have EV production capacity of 500,000 units in the next few years.
Sommer has a degree in industrial engineering as well as an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He held various product-planning jobs at General Motors Co. and Daimler AG before joining Renault in 2009.
At Renault, he was brand director of the premium segment and electric vehicles.
Sommer took VW's newly created position on Oct. 1. He reports to Christian Klingler, the automaker's board member in charge of sales.
As part of its bid to be the world's largest automaker by 2018, VW has aggressively poached top executives from rival companies. This year, the automaker has hired:
• Frank Tuch, a former Porsche AG executive, to be VW's chief quality officer. Tuch will try to improve VW's poor quality ranking in the key U.S. market
• Jonathan Browning, General Motors Co.'s former chief of worldwide sales, to be head of Volkswagen of America. Browning has been asked to triple VW group sales in North America by 2018
• Hans Demant, a former Opel managing director, to take charge of VW's international project coordination. Demant will manage VW's partnership with small-car maker Suzuki Motor Corp. in key markets such as India and China.