Family Man: VW’s Chief Strategy Officer Abandons Ship for Smart Boats

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Volkswagen’s strategy chief since 2015, Michael Jost (59), has announced that he will be departing after more than a decade with the company. While the cynics among us will undoubtedly jump to conclusions about the botched launches of VW Group’s new EVs and the all-important Mk8 Golf, the man himself claimed that his primary reason for leaving is to ensure the wellbeing of his family.

Jost confessed via his website that he’s only been spending weekends with his kindred since 1996 and would ideally like to make that a full-time position. A year under COVID restrictions apparently made the man reassess his life, resulting in his decision to abandon his demanding role at VW.

While admirable and genuinely endearing, we’re still wondering if Volkswagen didn’t nudge him a bit. Not that the glut of software issues that plagued the launch of the automakers I.D. branded vehicles are his fault, but it’s handy to have someone to blame in the business world and Jost was a vocal advocate for transitioning the company toward electric vehicles and software development. That’s speculative, however, as the manufacturer has yet to make any official statement about the management change.

German publication Manager Magazin appears to have been the first outlet to verify the staffing shakeup with insiders. Jost reportedly e-mailed select colleagues about his departure ahead of time. There were also rumors that he had butted heads of the works council over the products VW would be moving on and which factories would be eligible to manufacturer them. By prioritizing EVs, there were fears that jobs would be lost since they typically utilize fewer moving parts and require fewer man-hours for final assembly.

Volkswagen has not given any hint that it’s slowing down on EV development, however. Last week, VW CEO Ralf Brandstätter stated that the brand had actually decided to accelerate things. Volkswagen originally planned to have 35 percent of all sales be electric by 2030. The new strategy pushes that number up to a whopping 70 percent.

“Volkswagen is taking responsibility for the climate and will significantly exceed the planned EU regulation,” he said. But he also claimed that the company was in the best position to “winning the race” of digitization and electrification, arguing that VW was actually much further along in its transformation toward EVs than any other manufacturer.

It’s a claim that’s true in some ways and obviously false in others. But none of those will be Mr. Jost’s problem anymore. He said he’d be redirecting his focus from “smart cars” toward “smart boats,” noting that the latter was a passion he could more easily share with his family. That’s doesn’t sound like much of a business plan. But there’s apparently some sort of collaboration between Jost Group and Silent Yachts Holding to develop “silent resorts” and luxury boats utilizing artificial intelligence for navigation and docking.

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