Volkswagen brand sales boss Hans-Ulrich Sachs has taken the blame for a sharp drop in VW sales in 2000. Sachs, who joined the company 10 months ago, was abruptly fired in May.
Sales of every major VW car declined in Europe during the first four months of 2000. The Lupo, Polo, Golf, Passat and Sharan are running behind 1999 levels.
VW brand sales in Europe are down 9.6 percent in the January through April period, according to ACEA, the European automakers' association. Market share fell to 10.8 percent from 12.1 percent in the same period last year.
Sachs, 47, will be replaced by Detlef Wittig, head of marketing at VW's Skoda unit in the Czech Republic. Seat's head of sales and marketing, Detlev Schmidt, will replace Wittig. VW gave no reason for the moves, but sources say Sachs was under pressure from VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech.
Sachs joined VW at a time when it was dramatically extending its model ranges. Volkswagen group has been Europe's market leader for several years, but there is concern about the ability of its sales and marketing operations to cope with a rush of new models. Critics say Piech's platform-sharing strategy puts the VW brand under pressure from the group's lower-priced brands, Seat and Skoda.
In November, Sachs fired VW's German sales director, Peter Giffhorn, who was well liked by dealers. Giffhorn was viewed as the company's bridge to dealers while the network went through a painful restructuring in recent years.
Sources say Sachs, a career finance man, never was accepted by VW dealers. Company insiders say his fate may have been sealed by a disastrous presentation to dealers at VW's Autostadt car delivery center park in Wolfsburg in June. During a demonstration that was supposed to show how cars would be transported from the factory to customers, the cars became stuck in some glass storage towers and failed to appear in the delivery areas.