MUNICH, Germany -- Volkswagen brand Chairman Wolfgang Bernhard has a new head of product strategy: Matthias Rabe, a 43-year-old engineer.
Industry insiders say the move is part of a two-pronged revival plan similar to one Bernhard carried out as Chrysler group's COO: Emphasize cost cutting first, then product.
Bernhard has spent most of his time on cost cutting, says Albrecht Denninghof, an auto analyst at HypoVereinsbank in Munich. "Now he is shifting his attention to getting the right people in place on product."
Bernhard plans to shake up VW's high-wage German operations by cutting manufacturing costs and up to 20,000 jobs over the next three years. He also plans to launch 20 new models in the next five years, 10 in segments where VW has no product.
Rabe is expected to have a key role in that plan. He has held senior management positions for VW in China and Germany. His last role was head of group research starting in May 2003.
From 1998 to 2003, Rabe was responsible for VW's vehicle-safety department. Before that he worked for Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Corp., VW's joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.
Rabe, a German native, is a graduate in aerospace technology and mechanical engineering from the Aachen University of Technology.
He takes over from Reinhard Kruschwitz, 61, who is retiring.
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