Lucky Karl-Thomas Neumann; lucky Germany
|Douglas A. Bolduc is managing editor at Automotive News Europe|
Former Continental CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann might be the happiest guy in the automotive industry right now.
Europe's largest automaker has created a high-level position specifically designed to capitalize on his expertise in the electrification of vehicles. He starts as Volkswagen's electric car guru on December 1.
It is nice to see the enthusiastic, talented executive land on his feet following his bitter departure from Continental due to irreconcilable differences with controlling shareholder Schaeffler Group. Neumann didn't like Schaeffler's meddling at Continental, a company that he helped enter high-growth fields such as telematics and the production of lithium-ion batteries.
The 48-year-old German will help decide from which suppliers VW will get crucial components for its future lineup of electric cars. He could use his intimate knowledge of Continental to ensure his new employer gets the supplier's most advanced technology first -- and probably at a great price because he must still know all the key figures.
Another interesting development to watch is whether Conti's toughest rival, Robert Bosch, now will be at an advantage or disadvantage when bidding for VW's future electric car projects.
Will Neumann steer VW toward Conti products because he knows them and trusts them or will he decide to reward Bosch?
There is little risk in picking Bosch because under the guidance of auto division boss Bernd Bohr the world's largest supplier has spent millions to strengthen its portfolio of products for hybrids and electric cars.
Another supplier to factor into these discussions is ZF Friedrichhafen.
What all this means is that Germany's most powerful suppliers and its dominate automaker will be working toward a similar goal: leadership in future powertrain technologies.
Neumann will be at the center of this. This is good news for VW and good news for the German automotive industry.