VW's unassuming CFO emerges from boardroom wars as chairman

Thu Sep 3, 2015 3:59pm EDT
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By Edward Taylor and Georgina Prodhan

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Austrian Hans Dieter Poetsch, Volkswagen AG's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) finance chief, faces a massive task in his future role as chairman - to maintain the support of the often divided stakeholders who have chosen to back him while improving the carmaker's profitability.

Although Volkswagen Group has grown to become the world's largest carmaker it has proven to be one of the most difficult companies to manage as radical reforms can be blocked by labour representatives, who hold half the seats on the supervisory board, and its home state of Lower Saxony, which controls a 20 percent stake in the company.

Poetsch, who has been VW's chief financial officer for 13 years, was chosen as chairman on Thursday because he is seen as a relatively neutral and unthreatening figure.

Unlike some other senior VW engineers, he has avoided becoming seen as too beholden to ousted former chairman Ferdinand Piech or Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn.

Poetsch's gentle demeanour should help him mend fences at VW which has been rocked by the clash between Piech and Winterkorn, but analysts and observers wonder whether a consensus-oriented approach is what VW needs right now.

Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, professor of automotive industry economics at the University of Duisburg Essen, said Poetsch, a former chief executive of automotive paintshop systems manufacturer Duerr (DUEG.DE: Quote), was a bad choice.

"He's nice, approachable. He's good to go out for a drink or a bite to eat with. He's not the type who likes conflict," Dudenhoeffer said. "He's a stop-gap because they couldn't find a strong external candidate."


Hans Dieter Poetsch, CFO of German carmaker Volkswagen, adjusts his glasses during a news conference in Wolfsburg, July 5, 2012. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer