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Consensus-driven Blume to usher in new leadership era at Volkswagen

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·3-min read
FILE PHOTO: Automobilwoche car summit in Ludwigsburg
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By Ilona Wissenbach

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The appointment of Oliver Blume as the next boss of Volkswagen heralds a change in management style that is expected to replace the erratic and unpredictable attitude of his predecessor with a more team-based culture.

A long-time Volkswagen executive who joined the carmaker in 1994, the 54-year-old Blume has hammered home the importance of teamwork and bringing workers into decision-making in nearly every interview he has given - a contrast to current CEO Herbert Diess' confrontational attitude.

"Oliver Blume is a team player, who does not push himself into the limelight," a source close to Blume said. But if there is no consensus, he is not afraid to have the last word, the person said.

Blume has served as the CEO of Porsche AG since 2015, a position that has been elevated further recently following the announcement of plans to list the luxury sports car maker later this year in a potential mega-IPO.

By successfully running the carmaker for years, he has earned the trust of the Porsche and Piech families, who control Volkswagen's largest shareholder Porsche SE and hold more than half of the voting rights, effectively giving them full control.

Boasting a 16% margin which it aims to boost to over 20% in coming years, Porsche is Germany's most profitable car maker and the cash cow of the Volkswagen Group.

From Sept. 1, Blume will take over from Diess at the helm of Volkswagen, the world's second-largest carmaker, to establish a "leadership culture that makes teamwork a top priority," Volkswagen said on Friday.

That is something Diess has struggled with.

It is unclear whether Blume's consensus-driven approach will succeed with Volkswagen's powerful works council, which has been a constant source of trouble for Diess in his attempts to push through reform.

It also remains to be seen whether Blume will be as much of an electrification purist as Diess, who advocated for focusing exclusively on battery-electric vehicles.

Though Blume has overseen the production of Porsche's first fully electric vehicle, the Taycan, he has also shown interest in other low-carbon technologies, investing in a wind-powered e-fuels production facility in Patagonia.

A separate source close to Blume, whose previous postings included leadership positions at Volkswagen divisions SEAT and Audi, described him as "not a revolutionary who wants to completely turn things around."

A person familiar with the plans said that Blume's appointment as Volkswagen CEO was not necessarily a sign that the planned listing of Porsche would be delayed or pulled, even as investor scepticism regarding the IPO has slowly started to creep in.

Also, the fact that he will run both Volkswagen and division Porsche, which will be two separately listed entities if the IPO plans materialise, is not going down too well with all investors.

"We do not think this is a good idea, as both organizations will need clear and present leadership in upcoming months," Bernstein's analyst Daniel Roeska wrote.

(Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach in Frankfurt; Writing by Christoph Steitz and Victoria Waldersee; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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