On Friday, Volkswagen SA paid tribute to its out-going MD, Hans-Christian Maergner, before he departs to head up the Brazilian arm of the company.

On Friday, Volkswagen SA paid tribute to its out-going MD, Hans-Christian Maergner, before he departs to head up the Brazilian arm of the company.

Maergner has been promoted to head Volkswagen do Brazil, ending his successful tenure in South Africa. The former head of the company's Salzgitter plant in Germany, Andreas Tostmann, has taken over the leadership of Uitenhage-based company.

Volkswagen SA chairman Dr Peter Hartz and other members of the management's Group Board paid tribute to the outgoing MD. Eastern Cape premier Reverend Makhenkesie Stofile presented Maergner with a certificate for his outstanding contribution to the growth of the automotive industry and the Eastern Cape.

In his speech, Mr Maergner called his six years at the helm of Volkswagen SA "the most challenging and rewarding time" of his career. "When I took up my appointment in 1998, the prospects for Volkswagen of South Africa and its dealer network were, at best, uncertain. The company immediately set about developing an export strategy and introducing new product innovations," he said.

"Since 1998, sales of domestically produced vehicles have risen by 34 per cent, and the component industry has grown equally."

There is no doubt that going into the future, Volkswagen of South Africa has the product, the people and the commitment to win. I will follow your progress with keen interest," Maergner said.

Calling Maergner's departure "the end of an era", Dr Hartz said he not only improved the South African company's position and market share, but achieved a positive financial result through his "deeds and strong will".

February also marks the anniversary of Maergner's 40th year as a member of the Volkswagen Group. From humble beginnings as an apprentice toolmaker in Wolfsburg, Germany, Maergner went on to complete an engineering diploma while working at Volkswagen's Kassel factory during term breaks. He later returned to Kassel as plant manager, after which he moved to South Africa to take up the challenge of running Volkswagen SA.

Maergner's successor, Andreas Tostmann, emphasised his commitment to continuing Maergner's legacy.

"In recent years Volkswagen has shown a very positive development and has gone from strength to strength. The challenge for the coming years will be to consolidate the current results and to further develop them," Tostmann said.