* HR chief hired after dieselgate scandal to help reform
* Says progress being made, but an ongoing process
* Critics say lack of new management hampering change
By Andreas Cremer
BERLIN, March 30 Creating a new era of
accountability at Volkswagen after its emissions
scandal may take time, as it requires radical changes to the
German carmaker's decades-old corporate structure, its head of
human resources told Reuters.
Volkswagen's (VW) drive to become more transparent and
decentralise power is seen by investors as a key part of its
efforts to rebuild trust following its admission in September
2015 that it cheated U.S. emissions tests on diesel engines.
But reformers are battling a long-tradition of management
hierarchies and some investors think their task is made harder
by a tightly-knit ownership dominated by the company's founding
families and home state of Lower Saxony.
"Good ideas are worth nothing if they fail because of
structural blockades," VW human resources chief Karlheinz
Blessing said in an interview published on Thursday.
"Not only the values must be right but also the structure,"
he said, adding progress was being made to reduce the number of
committees, streamline the development of models and move
managers more frequently to improve their leadership skills.
Before "dieselgate", there was an extreme deference to
authority at VW and a closed-off corporate culture that some
critics say may have been a factor in the cheating.
Although Blessing, a former steel manager who joined VW in
January 2016, has pledged a complete overhaul of its structures,
values and principles, some investors aren't convinced.
"I see a governance and culture problem at the group for
which the old guard is responsible," said Ingo Speich, a fund
manager at Union Investment which holds about 0.6 percent of VW
VW is hamstrung by the different interests of its
stakeholders - which include a powerful role for trade unions -
and a lack of new leaders, he added. Chief Executive Matthias
Mueller has been with VW for nearly four decades and Chairman
Hans Dieter Poetsch was previously its long-term finance chief.
Blessing said VW wanted to put an end to managers shifting
accountability to others and would ensure the best qualified
people were handed responsibilities - something that might not
always have been the case under a top-down management style.
"That has to be learned, and it may take a bit of time," he
Blessing's caution appears justified, according to two
sources at the company.
With VW pursuing an ambitious shift to electric cars and
digital services, some managers have become afraid again of
making mistakes and are more keen to protect their careers than
lead the drive for openness, they said.
"The search for those who made mistakes always took
precedence over the search for the mistakes," one of the sources
said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity
of the matter. "That mindset is still there."
Blessing declined to say how long it would take to establish
a modern leadership culture at VW.
"This is an ongoing process, and it's nothing that will
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Mark Potter)