SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ Volkswagen is replacing David Fleming as head of its troubled Brazilian division with Hans-Christian Maergner, the executive in charge of the car maker's South African unit, the company said Tuesday.

Volkswagen said Maergner will take over from Fleming on Jan. 1. Fleming, who headed Volkwagen in Brazil for 14 months, will assume new unspecified responsibilities with Volkswagen.

While Volkswagen's subcompact Gol is Brazil's top-selling car, the company wants to regain its position as the country's No. 1 auto producer.

After years as Brazil's leading automaker, Volkswagen is now in the No. 3 position behind General Motors Corp. and Fiat SpA. Volkswagen has not posted a profit in Brazil since 1997.

The company met fierce opposition this year over a plan to cut 4,000 Brazilian workers. And its sales in Latin America's largest country slumped significantly as interest rates hit sky-high levels and the Brazilian economy slipped into a recession during the first two quarters.

Volkswagen's third-quarter profits were cut in half in part because of a euro120 million ($140 million) restructuring charge to pay for costs associated with the Brazilian job cuts.