Volkswagen AG’s leadership crisis could soon be avoided, with Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn still having enough backing and Chairman Ferdinand Piech claiming he’s not seeking to get him fired.
The leadership crisis of the second largest automaker in the world – also Europe’s biggest – have attracted the worldwide attention, hinting at the company’s deep issues that go beyond slowing performance and regional weakness. Earlier this month the company’s chairman, Piech, said he was putting some distance to chief executive officer Winterkorn, prompting stormy proceedings and allegiance-setting meetings. Now, Volkswagen labor officials and the German state of Lower Saxony, a key company stakeholder, have expressed on Thursday their support for the CEO. That comes after a senior supervisory board member meeting on April 17 that also backed Winterkorn, weighing down on the challenge of Piech, the leader of the VW founding family. “For us, last week’s decision remains valid,” commented works council chief Bernd Osterloh, an influential leader, for German daily Bild.
Additionally, Germany’s NDR broadcasting network reported early Thursday that Piech was seeking to get Winterkorn fired, citing unnamed sources. The chairman would have reportedly made his move before Volkswagen’s planned shareholder meeting, scheduled for May 5. But it appears the VW chairman itself has come forward to rebuke the claims, telling the Bild-Zeitung later on Thursday he was not trying to push Winterkorn out. “We talked things through last week and agreed on a cooperation,” was quoted Piech as saying. “I am not pushing the dismissal of Martin Winterkorn.” The company also said last week’s board member meeting – which reconfirmed Winterkorn – is setting the tone for the firm’s actions forward.