Thomas Ulbrich’s career at Volkswagen really took off 15 years ago. The now 51-year old engineer managed to strike a deal with the powerful union IG Metall to produce the new minivan Touran at lower costs. Workers at VW’s subsidiary Auto 5000 agreed to produce the vehicle without demanding the higher pay that comes with the union’s collective labor agreement.
To this day, Mr. Ulbrich’s achievement is seen as his “exam” that allowed him to climb VW’s corporate ladder. On February 1, the manager will take the next step and fill the newly-created position of e-mobility board member at VW passenger cars, the biggest subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group that includes Porsche, Audi, MAN trucks and Seat.
VW, the world’s largest carmaker ahead of Toyota and GM, wants to play a leading role in the market for electric cars, where Tesla, BYD and Nissan have been stealing the headlines these days. The Wolfsburg-based firm, still reeling from Dieselgate, plans to introduce mass-market electric vehicles in 2020, starting with the I.D. This new model is an all-electric hatchback “like a Golf on the outside and a Passat on the inside,” Herbert Diess, head of VW passenger cars and Mr. Ulbrich’s boss, said last year.