VW owners close ranks as investors vent fury over crisis

Wed Jun 22, 2016 10:31pm EDT
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By Andreas Cremer

HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) - Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) top shareholders closed ranks behind management on Wednesday, defying a torrent of criticism from smaller investors about the German carmaker's emissions test cheating and its response to the scandal.

Europe's largest automaker held its first annual shareholder meeting since admitting in September to rigging U.S. diesel emissions tests in a scandal that risks costing it tens of billions of dollars.

The crisis has led to calls from some investors for greater openness at a business that is almost 90 percent controlled by its founding Porsche-Piech families, its home region of Lower Saxony and the Gulf state of Qatar.

But there was little sign on Wednesday of a change in corporate governance, with key shareholders easily defeating two motions aimed at replacing Hans Dieter Poetsch - Volkswagen's chairman and also head of the Porsche-Piech family's holding company - as chair of the meeting.

Poetsch, who is also VW's former finance chief, repeated an apology to investors.

"We sincerely regret that the diesel issue is casting a shadow on this great company," he told the meeting of about 3,000 shareholders in Hanover.

But some investors were not mollified.

"We are looking at a shambles," said Ulrich Hocker of Germany's DSW association of private investors, citing "collective failure" by top executives for the scandal.   Continued...

A Volkswagen (VW) logo is seen on a car's front at a scrapyard in Fuerstenfeldbruck, Germany, May 21, 2016.    REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Picture