- Thomas Ulbrich will become chief technology officer of Volkswagen Group China and CEO of Volkswagen China Technology Company, the automaker announced Monday.
- Ulbrich is the former head of the Volkswagen brand’s new mobility division. As part of the changes, the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand will also merge its new mobility and technical development divisions, and shrink its board of directors to seven members.
- Kai Grünitz, board member for technical development, will lead the newly combined technical development division for the Volkswagen brand. All changes take effect April 1.
Ulbrich’s appointments come as the Volkswagen Group overhauls its product strategy for China, which aims to develop market-specific electric vehicles.
“The Volkswagen Group’s ‘In China, for China’ strategy is about systematically adapting to the dynamic changes taking place in China’s automotive industry,” said Ralf Brandstätter, a member of the Volkswagen Group’s board in China and CEO of Volkswagen Group China, in a statement. “A high degree of localization will allow us to cater to the wishes of our Chinese customers.”
The automaker sold 3.2 million vehicles in China in 2023, with EV sales increasing 23.2% YoY to 191,800 units.
As head of the Volkswagen brand’s new mobility division, Ulbrich oversaw the testing and implementation of a new software development process for EVs. In November, the Volkswagen Group announced Volkswagen China Technology Company would develop an entry-level EV platform to underpin several models for the China market starting in 2026. The automaker plans to create the new platform in 36 months, which is about a third less than its earlier development timelines.
Ulbrich also has experience working at Volkswagen Group joint ventures in China. He formerly served as head of logistics at FAW-Volkswagen and technical executive vice president at SAIC Volkswagen.
Those experiences might serve him well in his new role.
“Thomas Ulbrich, one of our top development and software experts, will now continue to advance the localization and networking of our Group’s development activities in the region,” Brandstätter said in a statement. “Ulbrich has exceptional expertise in important future technologies and excellent connections in the company and the China region.”
As head of the Volkswagen Group's technical development division, Grünitz will oversee all future technology development and technical project management.
The automaker said it had planned to combine the new mobility and technical development divisions once the new mobility division finished its EV software development work. In the press release, Volkswagen Group said Ulbrich had been a “driving force” behind the automaker’s EV lineup and its new software development processes, which will be transferred into the newly combined division under Grunitz.
“This is the right step at the right time,” said Thomas Schäfer, CEO of the Volkswagen brand and a member of the Volkswagen Group’s board, in a statement. “New digital technologies will thus become an even more integral part of our future-oriented vehicle development.”