FRANKFURT, Germany: Volkswagen on Thursday handed over the reins to new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Oliver Blume, tasked with steering the German automotive giant through challenging economic conditions after four turbulent years under his predecessor Herbert Diess.

Blume, nurtured in house at Volkswagen and the current CEO of premium sports brand Porsche, is unlikely to signal a significant departure from the electric strategy laid out by Diess.

The board under "Herbert Diess has done a good job strategically and technologically," Blume said at a conference on Thursday. "We will keep up the current pace and where possible, increase it."

The success of a business is "always the product of a strong team," added the new chief, who will also lead a trimmed nine-person board.

Diess owed his exit in part to tensions with workers' representatives, riled by his uncompromising leadership style.

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As such, Blume takes the wheel at a "really difficult time" for Volkswagen, said Matthias Schmidt, an analyst specializing in electric vehicles (EVs).

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has not only compounded supply chain problems unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic, but also introduced uncertainties over energy supplies across Europe.

The economic turmoil comes as Volkswagen is plowing tens of billions into an ambitious switch to EVs, opening a clutch of battery factories across Europe.

Meanwhile, the new boss will also be tasked with sorting out persistent setbacks at the group's software arm and guiding premium brand Porsche to a tricky stock market entry.

Diess took over at Volkswagen in 2018 with a mandate to turn the page on the "dieselgate" emissions-cheating scandal.

The Austrian's response was to launch Volkswagen on a headlong drive into EVs, but his often combative style ruffled feathers at the legacy auto manufacturer.

The 63-year-old finally lost the confidence of Volkswagen's main shareholders — the Porsche-Piech family — as problems mounted in the group's software division, headed by the CEO himself.

Blume, a 28-year Volkswagen veteran, is set to cut a more conciliatory figure than Diess, who was hired as an outsider from rival BMW.

"Blume is not known as someone who wages wars. He takes less risk than Diess," Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of the Center of Automotive Research, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Following Diess' exit, Volkswagen Chief Financial Officer Arno Antlitzwas sent out to stress that there would be "continuity" at the manufacturer.

But Blume has signaled that he could be more open to extending the life of old combustion engines with alternative fuels.

In a recent interview with the weekly newspaper Automobilwoche, Blume said he saw synthetic fuels as a "sensible complement of electric mobility."

In theory, such "e-fuels," made from carbon dioxide using renewable electricity, allow traditional engines to be run with almost no net carbon emissions.

While Diess remained unconvinced by the alternative to gasoline and diesel, synthetic fuels would allow Volkswagen to keep working on a future for combustion engines.

Blume is unlikely to perform a full U-turn on the electrification plan laid out by Diess, Dudenhoeffer said.

But the carmaker could "move a little further away from the purely electric strategy" given the risks of an abrupt move to battery-powered vehicles, he added.