* Production chief leaves post, company Aug. 1
* VW brand production chief to take over on interim basis
* VW grappling with new production system complexities
(Adds background on MQB, analyst and CEO comments)
BERLIN, Aug 1 Volkswagen (VW) has
replaced its production chief Michael Macht, who oversaw the
introduction of a manufacturing platform which was designed to
cut costs, a day after the company reported a drop in operating
VW is increasingly relying on its MQB modular platform, a
production system introduced two years ago, to save money by
using more common parts across its range of brands and models.
But the drive to produce a greater variety of cars is
proving tricky, particularly at VW's main Wolfsburg factory,
leading to costly overtime and delays in production of its
top-selling Golf model.
Macht's resignation follows the publication of
second-quarter results on Thursday which highlighted the growing
troubles at the core VW brand, where operating profit plunged by
over a third to 572 million euros.
Macht will leave VW with immediate effect after almost four
years in the job, Volkswagen said. Macht, a former Porsche
executive, became VW group production chief in October 2010.
"Michael Macht has furthered development of the VW
production system," Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn said in a
statement. "We thank him for his achievement."
Analysts have hailed MQB as the most important automotive
initiative for years. The new platform features a far greater
degree of flexibility and parts commonality than at Toyota
, General Motors and other competitors.
"MQB is the central tool for VW to improve margins,"
Hanover-based NordLB analyst Frank Schwope said. "They can't
allow any slippage here."
VW has enjoyed a period of unprecedented growth, boosted by
emerging-market buyers of its upmarket Audi brand. Its sales
have risen more than a half to 9.7 million vehicles in 2013
compared with levels before the financial crisis, and it is set
to hit a 10-million sales target in 2014 - four years early.
But the rapid expansion has led to a costly proliferation of
models, especially at the VW brand. Winterkorn has now ordered a
cost-cutting drive at the division with the goal of increasing
savings to 5 billion euros per year from 2017.
Last month, Winterkorn had called on managers to step up
their game to achieve a universal roll-out of MQB.
VW said Thomas Ulbrich, head of production at the carmaker's
main passenger-car brand, would take over duties from Macht on
an interim basis until a successor is found.
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Kirsti Knolle and