FRANKFURT — Volkswagen AG says Tony Gott, managing director of its Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars unit, will leave the company "to pursue other tasks." VW says both sides agreed on the decision and a permanent replacement would be named "at a later date."

Hans-Georg Melching, VW supervisory board member in charge of finance and systems, will take over Gott’s position on a temporary basis.

Gott’s departure comes as Bentley sales are on the rise — the company posted a 35% increase in overall sales in 2000 — and as BMW AG prepares to take over the Rolls-Royce unit at the end of 2002.

His leaving could be a harbinger to further changes in VW’s management. Published reports say Audi Chief Executive Franz-Josef Paefgen also may be ousted. The reports come as incoming Volkswagen Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder selects his team to lead VW after he assumes the chairmanship next April.

Paefgen’s performance has been ridiculed by outgoing Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech, who has been critical of Audi’s brand direction. Paefgen is expected to be replaced by Martin Winterkorn, head of Volkswagen’s product development. o