VW aims to find new chairman quickly and return focus to business

Tue May 5, 2015 11:17am EDT
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By Andreas Cremer

HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) - Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) said it would try to find a new chairman quickly and announced a long-planned tie-up of its truck brands, seeking to return the focus to business following the carmaker's shock ouster of former patriarch Ferdinand Piech.

Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, who survived the public showdown that triggered Piech's resignation last month, told shareholders on Tuesday the group would tackle the trouble spots that Piech complained about in provoking the leadership crisis.

"It is good that we have returned to calmer waters and that we have clarity about our future direction," Winterkorn said at Volkswagen's (VW) annual shareholder meeting. "We cannot and must not stand still."

VW, Europe's biggest carmaker, is cutting costs at its namesake car brand in a bid to improve profitability, while also battling to revive its fortunes in North America and build a trucks business to challenge sector leader Daimler (DAIGn.DE: Quote).

Piech, who retains a stake in VW and has clashed with the group about board appointments since his departure, did not attend the shareholder meeting for the first time in more than two decades.

Winterkorn said the supervisory board's steering committee and board members were working hard to swiftly find a replacement for former IG Metall union chief Berthold Huber, who is acting as interim chairman.

However Stephan Weil, governor of Lower Saxony, VW's No. 2 stakeholder and Huber told reporters VW would not be over-hasty. Weil declined to say whether the supervisory board had agreed a roadmap for the search at its meeting on Monday.

Ulrich Hocker of Germany's DSW association of private investors was keen for VW to move on.   Continued...

Ferdinand Piech, chairman of the supervisory board of Volkswagen, is pictured during a welcoming ceremony at the plant of German carmaker Volkswagen in Wolfsburg April 23, 2012.  REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer