Volkswagen AG on Wednesday named a new head of its America group. Scott Keogh. Photo: File
INTERNATIONAL - Volkswagen AG on Wednesday named a new head of its America group as the German automaker pushes to boost SUV sales amid weakening demand for cars.

Scott Keogh, currently head of Audi of America, will become president and chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America as well as head of the Volkswagen brand for the North American region effective Nov. 1, the company said.

Keogh, 49, will succeed Hinrich Woebcken, who will remain with the company as an adviser.

“Scott Keogh, who led Audi to excellence in the U.S., will build upon the momentum and implement the next stage in the growth strategy as we continue to develop Volkswagen into a more relevant player in North America,” Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess said in a statement.

Woebcken, a former BMW executive who ran global purchasing among other jobs, was named in January 2016 as head of VW’s North American region, after the automaker admitted to using secret software to evade diesel emissions standards.

In total, VW has agreed to spend more than $25 billion in the United States for claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers and offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting US vehicles. The buy backs will continue through the end of 2019.

Volkswagen’s US sales through September this year were up 5.5 percent to 266,228 vehicles, but it is still struggling to shift gears away from slow-selling cars to SUVs.

Sales of the company’s brand new Jetta sedan are down 33 percent this year, while sales of the Passat and Golf cars are also down 34 percent and 38 percent, respectively. Two new sport utility vehicles – the Atlas and Tiguan – now account for more than 40 percent of all US sales.

Keogh will be succeeded at Audi, effective on December 1, by Mark Del Rosso, who is currently president and chief executive of Bentley Motors and previously was chief operating officer of Audi of America, the company said. Del Rosso’s replacement at Bentley will be named later.

Keogh joined Audi as chief marketing officer in 2006 and was promoted to president in 2012, helping the brand double sales in the region from 2010 to 2015, the company said.

Del Rosso, 54, joined Audi of America as COO in 2008 from Toyota Motor Corp. 

REUTERS