BERLIN/STUTTGART (Reuters) - The family that controls Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE will meet over the coming days to discuss a leadership crisis at Europe’s biggest carmaker sparked by Chairman Ferdinand Piech’s criticism of CEO Martin Winterkorn, company sources told Reuters.
Piech, 77, will meet cousin Wolfgang Porsche and other family members, the sources said, to discuss the rift his comments have opened between their branches of VW’s controlling clan. A full board meeting is likely to follow.
VW declined to comment.
Piech said in a German magazine interview published on Friday that he was “at a distance to Winterkorn,” dampening speculation Winterkorn would be reappointed as CEO beyond 2016, or else be named to succeed him as chairman.
Piech’s comments were criticized by other members of the controlling family, as well as other shareholders and labor leaders who praised Winterkorn for the rapid growth enjoyed by VW under his watch.
The dispute risks a prolonged period of uncertainty at the top of the German carmaker, at a time when it is trying to drive through billions of euros of cost cuts at its namesake passenger car division and turn around its fortunes in the United States.
The Porsche and Piech families together command 50.7 percent of VW voting rights, with the state of Lower Saxony controlling a further 20 percent.
Reporting by Andreas Cremer and Ilona Wissenbach; Additional reporting by Laurence Frost and Jan Schwartz; Editing by Mark Potter