Volkswagen in full-blown crisis as CEO vows to fight: sources

Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:28am EDT
 
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By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) has plunged into a full-blown leadership crisis after Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn let it be known on Saturday he will fight for his job even though the carmaker's chairman has reportedly withdrawn confidence in the CEO.

Ferdinand Piech, who has spent almost 22 years at the helm of VW, nine as CEO, said he has "distanced" himself from Winterkorn, Der Spiegel reported on Friday, exposing unusual dissent between VW's two top leaders.

Piech's remark is viewed by analysts as undermining the CEO's prospects of renewing his contract, due to expire in December 2016 and to become chairman himself when Piech retires.

It comes as VW is seeking to cut billions of euros of costs to boost profitability at its troubled core division while struggling to forge a long-planned alliance of truck brands and to revive operations in the United States.

Winterkorn, who in his eight-year reign has overseen VW's transformation from a struggling German group saddled with high labor costs into one of the world's most successful automotive companies, will not run away from his job and feels emboldened by support from strong allies, two sources at Wolfsburg-based VW told Reuters on Saturday.

A spokesman for Volkswagen declined to comment on the report. Piech's office in Salzburg, Austria, didn't return calls seeking comment.

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported earlier on Saturday that Winterkorn would not allow himself to be edged out of VW, citing unnamed sources at the carmaker who referred to his successful track record as CEO.

Under Winterkorn's watch, VW has expanded from eight to twelve brands, more than doubled the number of production plants to over 100 and boosted sales 64 percent to a record 10.1 million vehicles last year.   Continued...

 
Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn speaks at the annual news conference of Volkswagen in Berlin March 12, 2015.   REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch