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Head of VW of America in surprise resignation

James McLernon, president of Volkswagen of America, resigned Monday as chief executive officer of the No. 5 automaker in the nation.

Mr. McLernon, who gave no indication of his future plans, will be replaced by Noel Phillips, currently managing director of the McCarthy Group, a company dealing in automotive products. A VW spokesman said the McLernon resignation was considered a ''great surprise'' by VW employees.

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