PRAGUE — Skoda has chosen Thomas Schaefer, formerly parent Volkswagen Group’s head in South Africa, as its new boss.

Schaefer, who had been seen as a favorite for the Skoda leadership post, will replace Bernhard Maier, who left at the end of July after nearly five years in charge. Maier has been mentioned as a candidate to lead Porsche, where he had directed sales and marketing before becoming Skoda chairman.

Schaefer takes over immediately, Skoda said Monday in a release.

Schaefer, a mechanical engineer, started his automotive career with Daimler in 1991, holding management positions in production and quality in Germany, the U.S. and South Africa until 2002. He then worked for DaimlerChrysler in Malaysia until 2005, when he moved to Daimler in Germany, working in the emerging markets operations business field. 

He moved to VW Group in 2012 and was named chairman and managing director of VW Group South Africa in 2015, responsible for group brands in the sub-Saharan Africa region.

Skoda said last Friday that it saw signs of recovery after first-half deliveries crashed 31 percent amid lockdowns. It said it had delivered 426,700 cars in January to June while sales revenue fell by a quarter to 7.55 billion euros ($8.95 billion) and operating profit sank 72 percent to 228 million euros.

Skoda is a bellwether for the Czech economy and is the country’s biggest exporter with 1.24 million vehicles delivered in 2019.