Just because Volkswagen is mired in the worst crisis of its 78-year history doesn't mean it can't still build toward the future.
While still trudging through the self-inflicted mess of its emissions scandal, the embattled automaker announced Tuesday that it has hired former Apple software guru and ex Mercedes-Benz executive Johann Jungwirth to head its new digitization strategy department.
According to USA Today, Jungwirth will report directly to Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller. Although little has been released about Jungwirth's role and the automaker's new digitization strategy department, it's likely that he will be asked to assist Volkswagen in helping to get it out of its emissions scandal by looking toward the future, which could include positioning the company in the autonomous vehicle market.
Previously at Apple, Jungwirth was the director of Mac systems engineering, but only spent a year with the tech company. Before that he served as a president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, honing in on self-driving technology and electric vehicles.
The latter could be significant because even while VW has been battling its emissions mess, it has maintained its goal to roll out 20 electric and plug-in hybrids by 2020.
Volkswagen needs all the help it could get — in whatever department they could get it — considering the New York Times reported Monday that the automaker continues to weigh options on cutting costs as a fallout from its emissions crisis.
According to the Times, on Monday, the company announced that it will begin talks with worker representatives with the automaker to figure out how to cut costs. Although the statement doesn't specifically mention layoffs, some of the company's 614,000 employees losing their jobs could be a possibility.
"In the present difficult situation we must jointly make decisions that factor in economics just as much as employment," Mueller said in the statement, as reported by the Times.
The announcement came the same day as Volkswagen announced that it will be giving U.S. owners whose vehicles were affected by the emissions cheating scandal a $500 gift card, which could be used on anything, an additional $500 in dealership credit and three free years of roadside assistance.
Although the company is striving to cut costs during this crisis, it's going to be hard with at least $6.5 billion in projected costs from its massive recall to bring 11 million faulty diesel vehicles into compliance with emissions regulations — an undertaking which VW will begin in January and hopes to finish by late 2016.
That $6.5 billion is not even including the possible regulatory fines that countries can rock the automaker with and potential class-action lawsuits from affected owners. On top of all that is the money from Volkswagen's "goodwill packages" via the gift card and dealership credit going out the door.
Jungwirth hopes to help reverse Volkswagen's downward spiral ... and the company needs all the help it could get.