Ex-VW CEO Mueller joins Piech EV startup as chairman

Matthias Mueller, the former CEO of Volkswagen Group, has been named chairman of Piech Automotive, an electric-car startup run by the son of the late former VW Group Chairman Ferdinand PIech.

Mueller is one of a number of high-profile figures involved in Piech Automotive, which was founded by Toni Piech and Rea Stark Rajcic, a Swiss designer and entrepreneur. They include tech investor Peter Thiel — a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook.

Piech Automotive said in a statement that it had completed its first round of investment with Thiel’s involvement, but did not provide further details. It announced that a second round to raise capital to launch a production car would be managed in the coming months under the leadership of UBS.

Mueller was ousted by VW Group’s board, controlled by the Piech-Porsche clan, in April 2018 and replaced by Herbert Diess.

Mueller had taken the top job at VW after the automaker’s diesel cheating scandal. He was seen by insiders as a reluctant CEO who had an uneasy relationship with the government of Lower Saxony, which is VW’s second-largest shareholder.

Piech Automotive showed the Mark Zero coupe in concept form at the 2019 Geneva auto show. The company says its fast-charging system could charge the battery to 80 percent in less than five minutes, using an energy recovery system and air-cooled battery pack developed with a Hong Kong company.

The Mark Zero was planned as the first of a model family that would launch by 2023 and include a two-seater, a four-seater and an SUV. 

The company said this week that construction of prototypes would begin soon and that an engineering campus is being built in Memmingen, Germany.

In addition to Mueller, Piech Automotive announced Klaus Schmidt, the company’s chief technology officer and a BMW veteran, would become co-CEO with Andreas Henke, chief marketing officer. Henke most recently worked for audio manufacturer Burmester, and also worked at Porsche.