Volkswagen scion and chairman, Ferdinand Piech, is reportedly trying to oust the company’s CEO despite having failed once already, reports claim.
The machinations taking place at board level at Volkswagen have filled the pages of both German newspapers and automotive trade publications over the last few weeks.
At the beginning of the month, Volkswagen chairman, Ferdinand Piech, told Der Spiegel that he was now “putting distance” between himself and Volkswagen’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn.
According to Automotive News Piech has repeatedly, over the course of several months, criticised Winterkorn at board level, especially over the company’s performance in the US and the profitability of the core Volkswagen brand. Other publications claim that he is also unhappy with the company’s stalled budget car project and its performance in the Chinese car market.
This public pronouncement sparked a series reports in the German and trade press that Piech was trying to undermine the CEO and have him replaced.
Above: Martin Winterkorn (left) and Ferdinand Piech (right).
The two were once considered close confidants, and it was Piech who supported Winterkorn as he rose to become head of Audi and then later the entire Volkswagen Group.
Last week, a meeting of Volkswagen’s six-member executive committee, of which Piech is a part, was called to clear up the matter. The committee threw its weight behind Winterkorn, and the company issued a statement saying that he had their “full support” and that they would propose a contract extension for him.
Trade unions and the German state of Lower Saxony, which owns 20 percent of the automaker’s voting stock, have also been publicly supportive of the Volkswagen CEO. In accordance with German law, the trade unions fill half of the seats on Volkswagen’s 20-seat supervisory committee.
With members of both the supervisory and executive committees stating on-the-record their displeasure about the latest Piech-driven ructions, it’s possible that the chairman could be ousted from his position as chairman prior to the conclusion of his current contract in 2017. This, however, would require a supermajority of votes.
In the latest manoeuvres, television network NDR is reporting that Piech is attempting to rally together the Porsche and Piech families in support of a new CEO. Together the two families control a shade over 50 percent of Volkswagen’s voting stock, and the company’s annual shareholder meeting is scheduled for May 5.
For his part, Piech told German newspaper Bild, after last week’s executive committee meeting, that he was not “organising Martin Winterkorn’s replacement” because “we talked last week and have agreed to work together”.