Volkswagen Replaces PR Chief Amid Emissions Crisis
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Volkswagen Replaces PR Chief Amid Emissions Crisis

New CEO Matthias Müller brings in former colleague Hans-Gerd Bode from Porsche to replace Stephan Grühsem.

Arun Sudhaman

Volkswagen Replaces PR Chief Amid Emissions Crisis

WOLFSBURG—Volkswagen has named new communications leadership as it attempts to salvage its reputation amid its ongoing emissions crisis.

Stefan Grühsem leaves the company after nine years and is replaced with immediate effect by Hans-Gerd Bode as head of group communications, investor relations and external relations.

Bode joins from Porsche, and follows Matthias Müller, the former Porsche chief who became CEO of Volkswagen earlier this week.

The arrival of new communications leadership comes after the Holmes Report revealed that a quartet of PR firms, led by Hering Schuppener, are overseeing global crisis PR for Volkswagen.

"Stephan Grühsem has played a decisive and strategically shrewd role in shaping communications in the group over the last nine years," said Müller in a statement. "We would like to acknowledge this with gratitude and respect. With Hans-Gerd Bode, another recognized expert is taking over at the helm of communications in our company. He has excellent knowledge of the group and the automotive industry."

Bode returns to Volkswagen after overseeing the company's brand and product communications between 1999 and 2008, when he left for Porsche. At the latter automaker he was head of product and technical communications, before becoming head of public relations and press in 2010.

Grühsem rejoined Volkswagen in 2007 after five years leading communications at Audi.

An observer familiar with the situation noted that the stakes could not be higher. "This is not just a crisis of a major industrial firm. It’s gone way beyond that, it could affect the German economy."

The crisis erupted last week when Volkswagen admitted it distorted emissions tests results in order to pass US environmental requirements. More than 11m diesel cars had 'defeat device' software installed that manipulated test results, despite warnings, leading chief executive Martin Winterkorn to step down last week.

The company has since has pledged to leave "no stone unturned" in resolving the scandal, beginning with legal investigations in Germany and the US. As many as 11m Volkswagen cars are set to be recalled, with Müller describing the situation as the "severest test in its history", according to a Reuters report.

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