Volkswagen names new CEO in sudden shift

Mueller had "signalled he was open to play a part in the changes" in conversations with supervisory board chief Hans Dieter Poetsch, the company said in a statement. After nine years there, he moved to Volkswagen in 2015 right before the infamous diesel emission scandal.

Mueller's contract as CEO at Volkswagen had been expected to run through the end of 2019, so a change now would represent a substantial reduction in his tenure at the head of the firm.

"Diess is ready to weather conflict, which is important to make things happen in a company like Volkswagen", said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the University of Duisburg-Essen's Center for Automotive Research.

Mr Mueller, a company veteran, was installed at short notice in 2015, a week after the company admitted to cheating U.S. diesel emission tests, prompting criticism from some investors who said that only an outsider could rebuild trust in the business.

Volkswagen, which employes over 640,000 people, turned aggressively to electric cars under Mueller's leadership.

Mueller, a former chief executive of sportscar-building VW subsidiary Porsche AG, was brought in to replace Martin Winterkorn in 2015 and was contracted to serve until 2020. That project became much more urgent as the diesel scandal generated massive costs, and meant taking on established interest groups.

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Dieselgate has cost VW more than 25 billion euros ($31 billion) in buybacks, fines and compensation, and the carmaker remains mired in legal woes at home and overseas.

Other changes before the board include a public stock market listing of VW's truck and bus division, a management board seat for a labour representative and a reorganisation of its 12 brands into four categories, sources said. But instead of being squeezed out, he has been pushed upward, and has been made CEO.

The company also is replacing its heads of human resources and purchasing.

Oliver Blume, CEO of Porsche, joins the Group Board of Management, and takes on the responsibility for group production.

As head of purchasing at BMW, Diess was instrumental in the luxury-car maker's ability to weather the financial crisis by squeezing more than 4 billion euros out of supply costs.

Volkswagen on Tuesday issued a cryptic statement saying Mueller has "showed his general willingness" to contribute to changes to the CEO job as part of a review of the group's management structure.

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