Browning, 54, a former executive at General Motors Co <GM.N> and
Ford Motor Co <F.N>, had been with VW since 2010. Volkswagen said on
Thursday that Browning will return to Britain, where he is from.
While Volkswagen said that Browning is leaving for personal reasons,
several sources with knowledge of the situation said it was his
inability to keep VW on pace to meet aggressive U.S. sales targets
that caused his departure.
Having been sales executive for GM in Europe and managing director
of Jaguar when it was owned by Ford left Browning ill-prepared for
the inner workings of VW in Wolfsburg, a source said. Browning
didn't always have the right telephone numbers for calling company
headquarters, the source said.
Meanwhile, Horn, a German national, has spent 23 years at Volkswagen
and is seen as the sales architect needed to increase U.S. sales to
800,000 for the VW Group by 2018.
Alec Gutierrez, an analyst with auto industry research firm Kelley
Blue Book, said: "Sales are below industry growth, so you have to
imagine that's a factor in his dismissal or his leaving the company.
VW's U.S. sales for its namesake brand as well as its Audi luxury
brand are up only 1 percent this year while the overall industry is
up 8 percent, Gutierrez said.
But Gutierrez added that no one may have been able to increase VW's
market share in the United States this year against ever-increasing
quality competition, particularly in the small- and mid-sized sedans
which are the company's top sellers.
Horn since 2009 has been the head of Volkswagen global after sales,
which covers parts and service at VW dealerships. Horn's appointment
becomes effective Jan. 1.
[to top of second column]
Under Browning, U.S. sales of Volkswagen doubled, including an
increase of 31 percent in 2012.
But this year, the Volkswagen brand has seen its U.S. sales slip 5
percent while Audi's sales are up 13 percent through November.
Until Japanese automakers overtook VW in the 1970s, Volkswagen was
the top seller of imported cars in the United States.
During Browning's tenure, VW opened a new plant in Chattanooga,
Tennessee, where it makes the Passat sedan.
Volkswagen wants to have the Tennessee plant join the rest of its
wholly owned plants around the world that have a German-styled works
council to represent the workers. Such a council would advise on
work rules at the plant and include both blue- and white-collar
In order to set up the German-style labor group at Chattanooga, its
workers must be aligned with a U.S. labor union. The company has
been in talks with the United Auto Workers.
Browning had said often that if plant workers were to be represented
by any union, a vote among workers must be held, a position that has
neither been publicly supported nor dismissed by top VW executives
(Additional reporting by Andreas Cremer
in Berlin; editing by G Crosse)
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