It’s a corporate drama that has more twists than a Robert Ludlum novel, but Volkswagen’s commercial vehicle subsidiary Traton has seen yet another boardroom revolution, with its CEO Matthias Gründler and CFO Christian Schulz suddenly ‘leaving the building’ effective today (30 September), with current Scania head honcho, Christian Levin being announced as the new CEO of the German based truck giant effective tomorrow ( 1st October).
It seems the Volkswagen board has put its eggs in the basket of the best performed brand in its Traton operation, by giving virtually all of the major roles Traton to Scania executives, replacing many of its longstanding German executives.
Traton supervisory board chairman, Hans Dieter Ptsch, announced the corporate shuffle overnight in Munich, saying that the 54-year-old Levin was a ‘strong manager’.
“He has my full support in shaping the path to greater profitability and growth,” said Ptsch.
“I would like to expressly thanks Matthias Gründler and Christian Schulz on behalf of the entire Board for the work they have done and the mutual successes achieved. Both of them pushed the implementation of the Global Champion strategy massively and thus achieved major milestones for the Traton Group in a short time,” Ptsch added.
With Christian Schulz also exiting, he will be replaced as CFO by Annette Danielski, who previously headed corporate finance at Traton and answered to Schultz.
Interestingly Christian Levin will also remain boss of Scania, and has already said that he will present a comprehensive plan by the end of the year, addressing the trend towards electric vehicles, the integration of Navistar and further investments in China.
The dashing Levin only took over as boss of Scania in February this year, taking over from the dour Henrik Henriksson, who now heads up one of the world’s first ‘green’ steel manufacturers.
Gründler had only been in charge of Traton since July last year, when the architect of the Traton concept, Andreas Renschler, was replaced in another sudden and ruthless move by the Volkswagen overlords.
Gründler made an exit statement, holding the corporate line and also confirming that Scania is Traton’s ‘lead brand’, which is obvious from the placement of Scania leaders in key roles within Traton.
“We were able to implement the Global Champion strategy faster than expected, and this means that Traton is now on stable footing internationally’, said Gründler.
“The Traton Group can now benefit even more from its lead brand Scania. Christian Levin is exactly the right person for this task and I wish him and the entire Traton team every success.” Gründler added.
Although Traton was floated in a massive IPO listing in 2020, which generated close to $4billion, the majority of stock or close to 90 per cent, still belongs with the Volkswagen Group.
Traton bundled Scania, MAN, Volkswagen Caminões e Ônibu in South America, and the US Navistar brand under the Munich based umbrella, with the company reaching the agreement in July last year to take over Navistar, after a prolonged and drawn out process to establish a footprint in the US market. Schulz played a key role in the the negotiation to purchase Navistar.
“The task now is to lead Traton beyond conventional business models and ways of thinking into a sustainable future,” said new Traton boss Levin.
The VW truck group’s major goal will be to save more money through modularisation, which VW’s passenger car group is also pursuing.
The new CFO Danielski also stated that one of her first tasks would be the complete integration of Navistar, which also saw a a board room reshuffle recently, with Scania executive Mathias Carlbaum being put in charge of the US subsidiary on 1st September.
While Navistar is a work in progress and vital to the future success of Traton, its German truck brand MAN remains an ongoing challenge for the Traton managers. The flagging subsidiary is also in the midst of being repositioned as an electric vehicles manufacturer, while MAN has already announced it will cut 3500 jobs in Germany this year.
Christian Levin, said he was honoured to take on the role as CEO of the Traton Group while continuing on as CEO of Scania.
“Looking ahead focus will be on transforming business into new technology areas and geographies, whilst leveraging further synergies through modularisation and scalability,” Levin said
“The evolution of the Traton Group continues and builds on the Traton strategy which the current management team established and which is now pushed into a different gear.
“The strategy includes a stronger focus on sustainability not the least through e-mobility, digitalisation and connectivity; continued integration of Navistar and growth in the North American market, as well as continued investments in China over the next few years.
“This change will comprise of several steps over time and by the end of the year a fuller plan will be presented,” Levin concluded.