Somehow, under the cover of COVID, the departure of Volkswagen’s truck supremo Andreas Renschler, from the board of the German auto giant and as head of its Traton truck operation, almost went unnoticed in July, but the former Daimler truck boss has left the VW building.
Renschler, who spearheaded the move to create a global truck company for VW in the likeness of what he previously created at Daimler, departed Traton on 15th July, handing the CEO role to Matthias Gründler, the former chief financial officer of the Munich-based VW truck subsidiary.
Renschler was the architect of the unsolicited Traton bid to buy Navistar International but is now watching from the sidelines as that deal either plays or hits a brick wall.
“From a personal point of view there is no better point in time to leave and to hand over the business to a very experienced successor,” the departing Renschler said in a letter to Traton employees.
Traton made a $US 2.9 billion offer for the 83 per cent of Navistar that Traton did not hold on 30 January is a bid to acquire the fourth-largest truck maker in North America in a play that was seen as a way for VW Traton to compete with major rivals such as Daimler and Volvo in the U.S. market and globally.
Renschler spoke often of Traton’s Global Champion Strategy born of his moved to take Traton to the same level as other major truck groups like Volvo, Paccar and Daimler, with significant presence in truck markets across Europe, the Americas and Asia. As mentioned previously it was a strategy that Renchler successfully pursued in his time at Daimler, buying Detroit Diesel, Freightliner and Western Star in America and Fuso in Japan to meld with Mercedes in Germany to create the world’s largest truck maker.
After his departure from Daimler and under his stewardship at VW in June 2018 Renschler created Traton, combining MAN, Scania and Volkswagen’s Brazillian truck company Caminhões e Ônibus. He then steered the company into its 17.7 per cent holding in Navistar and took Traton to the market with an IPO in early 2019, which saw its coffers filled with close to $US 4 billion enough to buy Navistar almost twice over.
Renschler also took Traton into a global procurement and joint venture Toyota’s truck subsidiary, Hino.
Traton’s IPO, shepherded by Renschler, led to speculation of the imminent takeover of Navistar, but for what ever reason the company under his guidance, prevaricated over the take over.
VW’s original stake in Navistar in September 2016 cost it around $US256 million and positioned it as the likely buyer of the remaining stock.
Navistar has still not commented on Renschler’s departure from Traton, but as recently as October last year, Renschler appeared with former Navistar CEO Troy Clarke and his successor, Pesio Lisboa, at the North American Commercial Vehicle show in Atlanta, to announce a memorandum of understanding which has seen Scania sell its Heavy Duty mining spec trucks in Canada through International dealers.
Some analysts believe the departure should not impact the Navistar deal, which has been partly driven by current CFO Christian Schulz and they believe Traton is at the beginning of a multi-year transformation through cost restructuring and the Navistar transaction will eventually leading to a higher return.
Navistar at around $US34, is almost line ball with Traton’s offer of $US35 per share, however it was as low as $27 around the time of Renschler’s departure, a price that could have gained Navistar at a 20 per cent discount.
Industry analysts in the US have said that the longer Traton delays completion of the Navistar deal the further Navistar will be in recovery, which will increase the price at which Navistar stock holders are willing to sell.
Troy Clarke, who led Navistar for the past seven years, has recently taken on the newly created role of executive chairman to oversee discussions with Traton..
However Renschler’s departure from the Volkswagen Group’s is part of a bigger picture with a series of executive shake-ups across the Group prior to the changes at Traton.
However the surprise departure of Renschler has raised questions about its future strategy.
Renschler wasn’t the only Traton management departure, with board member Joachim Drees, who led the MAN business, personnel chief Carsten Intra also leaving the company.
VW group has made several management changes amid internal tension that have arisen from costly efforts to electrify its product line-up, while also coping with the biggest industry slump in decades.
Former VW COO, Ralf Brandstaetter was promoted to the brand chief position last month after group CEO, Herbert Diess, lost direct control following a clash with key supervisory board members.
VW officials have signalled the strategic logic for the Navistar deal remains intact but have sent mixed signals about when and under what conditions the deal might go ahead.