VW's new stars must prove they can play as a team

Douglas A. Bolduc is a special correspondent for Automotive News Europe
Like a wealthy professional sports franchise, Volkswagen has been collecting experienced, high-profile players for its executive team as if they were shells on a beach.

Former Opel boss Hans Demant was convinced to switch sides after nearly 40 years with the General Motors Co. subsidiary. Fiat lost its second talented marketing executive to VW in less than two years when Giovanni Perosino left Turin for Wolfsburg this month to take on the newly created role of group marketing communications head.

Perosino will rejoin Luca De Meo, his former mentor at Fiat. The two men worked together in Turin while De Meo was CEO of Fiat brand, Alfa Romeo and Lancia. De Meo joined VW in August 2009.

Other key people acquired by VW this year include former GM global sales boss Jonathan Browning, who started as global head of VW Group's national sales companies in June, and Juergen Stackmann, Ford's former No. 2 in Germany, who now heads sales and marketing at Skoda.

VW has put together all that talent to help it achieve its goal of toppling Toyota as the world's No. 1 automaker.

The problem often seen in sports is that a collection of high-flying superstars seldom outperforms a true team made up of dedicated, talented, down-to-earth hard-workers who rose through the ranks and showed their commitment to their franchises.

The question is whether VW CEO Martin Winterkorn can keep all of his stars happy, focused and hungry. Also, one has to wonder whether there are some home-grown VW executives who have been denied a chance to prove themselves due to all of the top-tier outsiders coming in.

As VW's top union official, Bernd Osterloh, told Germany's Handelsblatt business newspaper in July: "The manager has assembled his team. Now he has to make them into world champions."