2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 15:44
For the first time in a decade, Ferdinand Piech is absent from a VW general meeting. The former patriarch is very present after his lost power struggle - and is extensively praised.
The "old one" is gone - and yet omnipresent. After the bitter leadership battle at Volkswagen, there are suddenly warm words for Ferdinand Piëch, the patriarch out of service. It almost seems as if he is about to be canonized at the annual general meeting: CEO Martin Winterkorn and other VW greats are trying to honor Piëch's services. The message from Hanover is clear. The power struggle is over, the focus is on the future. And the winners take a step towards the loser.
Hans Michel Piech steps out of the background
The unprecedented leadership crisis has shaken the power structure at Europe's largest car manufacturer. Piëch resigned as chairman of the supervisory board - for decades he shaped the group like no other. But his attempt to dismantle Winterkorn came to nothing. Piëch's departure marks a turning point for VW. This becomes visible on Tuesday morning shortly before the shareholders' meeting in the capital of Lower Saxony. As always, Volkswagen presents its cars in front of the hall, one model from the twelve-brand group follows the next.
But nothing is like it used to be. Now the motto is: Trio instead of duo, Porsche instead of Piëch. During the tour of the exhibition, Winterkorn has an unfamiliar companion at his side. He is flanked by Wolfgang Porsche and Hans Michel Piëch. A Piëch is there - but not like Ferdinand in the past, who always accepted the models. Wolfgang Porsche - and even more so Hans Michel Piëch - had so far stayed in the background. Now they are the focus after the former center of power Piëch collapsed in the crisis.
No kicking against Piech
The unfamiliar image looks like it comes from a strange world, Piëch's abrupt end at the top of the group and the supervisory board leaves Volkswagen with a kind of phantom pain. The company is not only in a state of upheaval in terms of personnel, but also strategically and structurally.
Despite the whole drama in which Piëch rode his attacks on Winterkorn, the winners of the power struggle do not follow suit. On the contrary: they pay tribute to Piëch's services - to the applause of the shareholders.
Huber and stool with slip of the tongue
The target person of the attacks makes the beginning. Winterkorn says: «Ferdinand Piëch has shaped the automotive industry like no other over the past five decades - as an entrepreneur, as an engineer, as a courageous visionary. This group and its people - and I too - have given Dr. We owe a lot to Piëch."
Sometimes it seems as if Piëch's spirit is still floating over VW. Shareholder advocate Ulrich Hocker accidentally addresses Winterkorn as “Professor Piëch” - after the acting supervisory board chairman Berthold Huber had already thought of Piëch when he actually meant the chairman of the board, Winterkorn.
Prime Minister Weil is gaining stature
The power struggle between Piëch (78) and his professional foster son Winterkorn raged for a good three weeks. For a long time it looked as if the 67-year-old corporate boss was finished and would not survive the attack by the patriarch. The auto world knows better now.
The CEO makes a correspondingly relaxed impression when walking through the car show. Winterkorn is “very sovereign”, says Lower Saxony's head of government and VW supervisory board Stephan Weil (SPD). He also looks relaxed. Weil gained stature in the power struggle.
There are still many open topics for VW
If VW is doing well, the country will be doing well - according to this maxim he acted, says Weil, who represents the country as a major shareholder. "Clarification" was necessary, says the Social Democrat with a view to the power struggle: "We all did not want the situation, but had to deal with it." Volkswagen can now concentrate on its actual business again: building and selling cars.
This sentence - one way or another - often falls on this Tuesday. But many topics are still open after the three-week trial of strength. On the one hand, there is the question of who will succeed Piëch. According to information from the German Press Agency, no quick decision will be made.
New holding with MAN and Scania
But in addition to the personnel issue, there are more far-reaching points, they have to do with the structure of the giant corporation. This was previously tailored to the successful Winterkorn / Piëch duo. Even before the start of the annual general meeting, the news that VW is already taking the first steps to decentralize its management makes you sit up and take notice. The group bundles its business with the commercial vehicle subsidiaries MAN and Scania in an independent holding company. This type of group within the group is intended to enable “closer networking of brands, shorter decision-making paths and more speed”.
Could such a delegation of parts of power to a middle level serve as a blueprint for other parts of the corporation? “We need clear structures in order to be able to act quickly and flexibly in the individual areas,” demands Works Council Chairman Bernd Osterloh. The holding model should set a precedent for other vehicle families such as the passenger cars from the volume business for the masses: VW, Skoda and Seat. Or for the luxury brands around Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini as well as Bentley and Bugatti. Last but not least, it is about the internal delimitation of the brands so that they don't cannibalize themselves too much.
Battle with Toyota
And everything revolves around the question of which models are needed to replace world market leader Toyota. A remarkable scene: During the tour, the Winterkorn convoy comes to the booth of the luxury subsidiary Bugatti. Their boss Wolfgang Dürheimer explains "the absolute top product of the group", a Bugatti Veyron. When he reports on the world speed records - the Veyron reaches 432 kilometers per hour - Prime Minister Weil whispers ironically to a neighbor: "It fits particularly well into a 30 km / h zone."
The Veyron swallows 42 liters per 100 kilometers in town. The future, however, belongs to cars that meet the strict emission standards and adapt to the finiteness of oil with alternative drives. Volkswagen could be missing someone whom they all praise as a visionary. (dpa)