Thomas Ulbrich stays with VW after all


Volkswagen has restructured the Board of Management of its core passenger car brand. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management responsible for Development, moves from the brand to the Group and will take charge of the new Group Quality Management and Strategy department.

The board member responsible for technical development of the VW Passenger Car brand will be a manager who actually wanted to leave the company.

At the beginning of December, a VW spokesperson said that Thomas Ulbrich, member of the board of management responsible for eMobility, would leave the company in 2021 “for purely private reasons”. In the run-up to the announcement, there had been reports that the eMobility department on the brand board was to be dissolved – if electric cars become the norm, the carmaker will not need a separate department for this and can integrate it into the usual production organisation.

As a result, VW apparently offered Ulbrich the chief position at the China joint venture Volkswagen Anhui to develop the e-small car for the group there. Ulbrich is said to have declined responsibility for the JAC project on the grounds that the post would be a step backwards in the group hierarchy. Today Ulbrich is a member of the VW brand board. From the JAC post, Ulbrich would have had to report to VW China boss Stefan Wöllenstein – currently, Wöllenstein and Ulbrich are on the same hierarchical level.

Now Volkswagen has apparently found a way to keep the manager after all – on the brand board, still on the same level as Wöllenstein. Ulbrich himself does not make any statements in the Volkswagen press release, but instead VW brand boss Ralf Brandstätter praises his new board member for development. “Thomas Ulbrich has emphasised important points on the topic of electric mobility for our brand. He saw the ID.3 and ID.4 from sketch to street in record time and made significant contributions to making electric mobility suitable for widespread use,” says Brandstätter. “An exceptional performance under special conditions. We see the fact that Thomas Ulbrich is available as Board member for Development after accomplishing this great task as a clear commitment to the brand and to our future strategy.”

Ulbrich will thus no longer be responsible only for electromobility, but also for the combustion engine series. The trained automotive mechanic and graduate vehicle engineer has been with the Group since 1992 and has held various positions during this time, but more in the area of production than development. The tasks of the board division for e-mobility, previously headed by Ulbrich, will be transferred back to the areas of responsibility of the respective departments after the successful market launch of the first MEB-based vehicles, according to Volkswagen.

Ulbrich will be replaced by Frank Welsch, who took over the brand’s development department in 2015 after the emissions scandal came to light. “Frank Welsch assumed responsibility for Development at Volkswagen Passenger Cars in challenging times,” says Brandstätter. “He initiated and continuously drove forward the profound technological change toward electric and digitalised mobility at Volkswagen with calm, foresight and great competence. For that, I would like to express the deepest gratitude on behalf of the Board of Management.”

Welsch will remain at Volkswagen, however, and will take over quality assurance at the group level. In this role, he will report directly to VW CEO Herbert Diess. “We are strengthening our cross-brand quality management, thus responding to the growing requirements arising from digitalisation and e-mobility,” says Diess. “In Frank Welsch, we will have an experienced vehicle expert and engineer at the helm of Group Quality Assurance. This new key function is now in excellent hands.”

In turn, the heads of the brands’ quality assurance departments will report to Welsch. “Our key aim is to have delighted customers – throughout the entire life of the vehicle,” says Welsch, outlining his new task: “As we move toward e-mobility and digitalisation, many new opportunities will arise that will allow us to get even closer to our customers, their requirements and their preferences. This will range from the charging process through digital services down to the complete networking of the vehicle.”

The changes will take place with effect from 1 February.

With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany. (Ulbrich), (Welsch)


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