Disparaging remarks uttered by Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech have led to speculation that the legendary auto exec is positioning himself to oust VW’s current CEO, Martin Winterkorn, a one-time ally of Piech who has overseen substantial growth during his tenure.
Under Winterkorn’s leadership, VW Group’s sales and profits have both increased dramatically, and the automotive conglomerate is positioning itself to be the world’s #1 auto maker. But Winterkorn has also come under fire for VW’s continued struggles in the United States (particlarly with the Volkswagen brand itself) and the slow progress of a low-cost car for emerging markets.
In remarks to German media, Piech says that he has “distanced himself” from Winterkorn, a cryptic comment that echoes his past remarks that have led to the undoing of the careers of past VW executives. But this time, Winterkorn has the support of both the German government and VW’s organized labor union. Together, these comprise roughly a substantial bloc on the 20 seat supervisory board, while the Porsche family, which traditionally aligns with the Peich-controlled seats, has thrown its support behind Winterkorn.