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The man who could kill the Golf

2 years ago

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Andrew English | Journalist


23 August 2022

‘I’m the new guy,’ says Thomas Schäfer, the new CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars – think rolled-up shirt sleeves, dark-blue suit trousers and highly polished veldschoen striking just the right note; smart and practical, but approachable and friendly too. 

After several generations of shouty, standoffish chiefs in charge at VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters, this is a major sea change. There’s even a weirdly self-aware video of Schäfer’s first day in the office, which he carries off a great deal better than the bum-clenchingly embarrassing videos featuring his outgoing boss at the head of the VW Group, Herbert Diess.

But is mere charm and personality enough to engineer a turnaround in the perception of Volkswagen as an arrogant, faltering machine, turning its back on its past successes? We’re at the launch of the ID. Buzz, VW’s fourth attempt to launch a retro Type 2 Bulli (German slang for microbus), and while I can’t tell you anything about this car yet, Schäfer has turned up, which is the first time in over 20 years I’ve seen the boss at a VW launch. He’s giving off-the-cuff interviews, completely unscripted and taking questions on the hoof, a rare thing to see in over protected modern motor industry management.

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