Ford Europe CEO returns to VW Group

Ford’s European top executive, Martin Sander, is moving back to the Volkswagen Group, his former employer. The German car manufacturer announced that he will now oversee sales, marketing, and aftersales for the Volkswagen brand.

Sander (57) moved from Audi to Ford in June 2022 as head of the US company’s Model E passenger car division in Europe. At the time, he was Audi’s senior vice president of European sales.

The company said that Sander will succeed Imelda Labbe and report to VW brand CEO Thomas Schaefer. VW officials declined to say where Labbe is headed next.

New momentum

Schaefer said in the same statement that Martin Sander will provide new momentum to sustainably position the Volkswagen brand’s sales organization for the future.

At Ford, Sander was responsible for restructuring the automaker’s unprofitable passenger car range in Europe and preparing it for an electric future.

As head of Model E and chairman of Ford’s manufacturing division in Germany, Sander oversaw the $2 billion transformation of the company’s Cologne plant from building the Fiesta small car to producing Ford’s first EV in Europe, the Explorer. Production of the car officially started on Tuesday.

The Explorer was developed as part of Ford’s partnership with VW and is based on VW Group’s MEB electric platform.

Ford Europe issued a brief statement: “Martin Sander, General Manager, Ford Model e Europe, and Chairman of Ford-Werke GmbH, has elected to leave Ford, effective June 12. Martin has been instrumental in leading the introduction of Ford’s first European-built electric vehicle, the new electric Explorer, followed by a second EV that Ford will introduce this summer. We thank Martin for his leadership and contributions to Ford’s business over the past two years.”

Sander’s 25 years in the automotive industry have been solely with Audi, except for the last two years at Ford. He started in sales for the VW Group premium brand in Germany and became responsible for the wider European market before becoming CEO of Audi Canada in 2009. He has also been managing director of Audi UK and head of sales for the Americas.


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