WASHINGTON -- Volkswagen Group of America named Stefan Schüller quality chief for VW and Audi in the United States, replacing the retiring Marc Trahan amid an aggressive localization push.
Schüller, 52, was most recently head of product safety and reliability at Audi AG, and before that, head of procurement -- two positions that will serve him well as Audi builds its first assembly plant in North America.
Trahan, a 35-year VW veteran who has been credited with reducing VW and Audi’s warranty costs and overcoming a reputation for spotty reliability, will retire July 1. Warranty costs for the VW brand have plunged by more than half over the past five years, he recently told Automotive News.
Trahan, 60, “has been integral in establishing quality processes and leading the [technical center] team in Auburn Hills, Mich.,” Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn said in a statement. “His reputation in the industry and passion for cars has made him a true asset to our executive team.”
As executive vice president of group quality, Schüller will be tasked with ensuring that VW’s growing manufacturing presence in the United States and Mexico does not take a toll on product reliability or durability.
Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn signaled the expansion in January by announcing the group will invest more than seven billion dollars in North America through the end of 2018.
VW completed a major overhaul of its plant in Puebla, Mexico, in early 2014 to produce the seventh-generation Golf, GTI, Golf SportWagen and other models. Audi broke ground on an assembly plant in San Jose Chiapa, Mexico, in 2013 that will produce the Q5 crossover for both North America and Europe starting in 2016.
This year, VW is also expected to choose a production site for a mid-sized SUV based on the CrossBlue concept from the 2013 Detroit auto show. The leading candidate is widely thought to be VW’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, which started producing the Passat mid-sized sedan in 2011, but Mexico is also in the running.
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