A management reshuffle at luxury sports car manufacturer Porsche has placed a former VW executive at the helm of the Stuttgart-based carmaker.
Porsche and VW are moving closer
The decision, which was announced on Tuesday, will see Matthias Mueller take over from Michael Macht as head of Porsche in October this year.
Mueller, who is considered a close confident of Volkswagen boss, Martin Winterkorn, was previously responsible for the company's product planning, management and model series.
Observers say the announcement is likely to accelerate the two groups' 2011 merger plans, which saw Porsche sell about half of its sports car business for 3.9 billion euros ($5 billion) to VW last year.
Michael Macht assumed responsibility for the luxury carmaker one year ago after his predecessor lost a bid to take over the much larger VW, but the new of his move led to suggestions that his performance had not been up to scratch.
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But Winterkorn dismissed any such accusations, stressing that Macht had steered Porsche through some turbulent times and that he had not been unhappy with his performance over the past year.
He added that at the time of Macht's arrival as Porsche head, he had anticipated him staying there for longer, but that VW's relatively poor sales figures in the US had forced a reshuffle.
"We are not as successful in the US as we would like to be," he told his audience gathered for the presentation of the new VW Sharan in southern Germany on Tuesday. And production expert Michael Macht, he added, was the man he hoped would turn that around.
In his new post, the 47 year-old will have control and co-ordination of all the VW group plants.
When asked what he expected of the new Porsche head, Winterkorn said Mueller understood how the company works.
"We need to make headway with Porsche and he is the right man for the job."
Powering ahead with Porsche
Mueller's appointment was welcomed by Porsche Works Council Chairman Uwe Hueck. He told reporters he believed Mueller was capable of maintaining the prestigious company's "unique and independent position" in the future.
"This is precisely what makes him the right man for us representatives of the workforce," Hueck said. "We already see him today as a genuine Porsche man, enabling us to really push down the throttle at all our plants."
Under their merger plans, Porsche will become the tenth brand in the Volkswagen group, the largest carmaker in Europe.
Author: Tamsin Walker (dpa/AP/AFP)
Editor: Mark Mattox