VW does not need chairman until new structure in place - labour chief

Wed Jun 3, 2015 1:05pm EDT
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By Jan Schwartz and Edward Taylor

WOLFSBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) needs to come up with a new structure before thinking about appointing a permanent chairman, the powerful labour chief at Europe's biggest carmaker said in an interview.

For the first time in more than two decades, Volkswagen no longer has Ferdinand Piech at the helm, a corporate scion who controlled the balance of power between the interests of shareholders and workers representatives.

Analysts and investors had hoped for the appointment of a strong chairman to work with Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn to tackle some of the company's problems, such as a low profitability at the core VW brand, which posted an operating margin of 2 percent in the first quarter.

Since Piech was ousted in April, Volkswagen's workers representatives have sought to exert more influence over strategy, to strengthen the focus on raising production efficiency without cutting jobs.

"We want to first have a debate about the company structure, then we can talk about a supervisory board chair," Bernd Osterloh, who is head of VW's works council, told Reuters.

Winterkorn promised to present a new company structure by October after surviving a showdown with Piech in April, thanks to support from Osterloh and the State of Lower Saxony.

Workers representatives control half the seats on VW's supervisory board while Lower Saxony, which owns 20 percent of the company, has another two seats, meaning they could potentially veto any candidate for chairman.

The power vacuum at the top comes at a crucial time for Volkswagen. The company wants to raise profits and boost sales in the United States in a bid to overtake rivals such as Toyota and become the best selling carmaker in the world.   Continued...

The VolksWagen logo is seen on their XL 1 car during the media day at the Paris Mondial de l'Automobile, October 3, 2014.   REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen