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Volkswagen Names New CEO

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BERLIN -- Volkswagen, Europe's biggest automaker, named former BMW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder as its new chief executive Friday, replacing Ferdinand Piech after eight years in charge.

The new VW boss will take over on April 17, Volkswagen said in a statement after a meeting of its supervisory board, which also proposed that Piech take a seat on the board.

Pischetsrieder, a 53-year-old Bavarian, joined Volkswagen in July 2000 after being forced out of rival BMW because of its costly, failed bid to turn around troubled British carmaker Rover.

The governor of Lower Saxony state, Volkswagen's biggest shareholder with an 18-percent stake, said he expects no dramatic changes in strategy under Pischetsrieder.

"Overall, the company is on an excellent course," said the governor, Sigmar Gabriel.

Currently in charge of VW's Spanish unit SEAT, Pischetsrieder has long been touted as the likely replacement to 64-year-old Piech, who has said he doesn't want to extend his contract and signaled his readiness to step aside.

"I will continue along substantially the same course as my predecessor," Pischetsrieder told the mass-circulation daily Bild in an interview published Friday.

But, he added, "Piech is a technical expert. For me, the customer comes first." Lower Saxony and labor representatives had said this week they would back Pischetsrieder for the post.

Piech is a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, who designed the original VW Beetle that became a worldwide success after World War II. He is credited with lifting the automaker out of an early-1990s slump, sharply boosting profits with improved quality control and cost cutting.

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