Long running Volkswagen AG chairman Ferdinand Piech has been met with increased resistance within the automaker’s supervisory board after the top executive criticized chief executive officer Martin Winterkorn.
The clash has led to an even deeper leadership crisis at the largest European carmaker and the second biggest in the world, exactly when the company has initiated a strategy to resurrect profits and still overthrow Japan’s Toyota from the global leadership position before the decade’s end. Last Friday the chairman, Piech, publicly panned Winterkorn after announcing he is withdrawing his vote of confidence – even as the executive had been leading the group since 2007 – he expressed his new, more distant, feelings when talking to German magazine Der Spiegel. The remark showcased an unusual case of dissent between VW’s two highest-ranking senior managers and analysts now also believe it’s a move to take him out of the races to extend Winterkorn’s chief executive contract beyond the current 2016 term or even position him as a successor to Piech when he relinquishes the chairman position sometimes beyond 2017.
On the other hand, Wolfgang Porsche, chairman of the Porsche SE holding company that has control over 51 percent of VW’s common stock, declared on Sunday he was actually rooting for Winterkorn. The chief executive also had the support of the state of Lower Saxony, VW’s second biggest stakeholder and was backed by the labor officials. “The comment from Dr Piech represents his personal opinion which has not been coordinated with the family,” commented Porsche – Piech’s cousin and one of the supervisory board members.