Ever since the massive international emissions scandal, Volkswagen has been actively working to regain its position as one of the top automaker on the planet. It’s been a tough return to that pinnacle, and the company has made a lot of changes in their journey.

The latest shift in the process has been a surprise to many. Volkswagen recently replaced its top executive: CEO Matthias Mueller is out, soon to be replaced by VW Brand Chief Herbert Diess. The change comes at a time where many thought VW had come almost all the way back. The company was, once again, at the top of the heap, moving 10.7 million units in 2017, making it the top automaker in the world, measured by sales. It’s a bit of a backhanded thank-you to Mueller, who helmed the company through one of the worst PR disasters in the automotive industry in recent history. In three years, Mueller helped turn the brand back around, get it back in the good graces of consumers and push the brand back to top prominence. And he did all that after being brought in when the heat over the emissions scandal was at its hottest.

So, why is VW handing the reins to a man who, until recently, helmed only the VW brand but is not in charge of a conglomerate that includes Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Porsche? The decision may have to do with what investors think about Mueller’s leadership. VW shares popped on the news of the leadership change. It’s possible the consumer public will see the leadership change as VW looking ahead, rather than continuing to work through the scandal that rocked the company. It is certainly an issue the company would like to have in the rearview. After all, the emissions scandal caused stock prices to plummet, costing the company more than $30 billion… and counting.

The emissions scandal also caused many consumers to eschew diesel cars, turning instead to other alternatives. Mueller, too, seemed interested in pushing Volkswagen more into electric or hybrid vehicles. Under his leadership, VW vowed to release up to 80 new plug-in electric or hybrid models in the next several years.

That commitment launched a space race of sorts in the market, leading several other automakers to make similar commitments. That alone changed the dynamic in the industry and proved that VW is still the trendsetter. It’s possible that fully embracing that role meant a change at the top as well, though that’s just speculation. At present, though, the market seems happy with the decision. No word, yet, on how the public will feel about the change.

Ronn Torossian has over 20 years of experience in the public relations industry

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.