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Business

Opinion: 'Let the young take over!'

There appears to be no quick fix to the current power struggle at German carmaker VW. DW's Manuela Kasper-Claridge argues that now is the time to let the younger generation take over the reins at the company.

We're talking about two older men who've fallen out with each other. Why should we take note at all?

Well, one of them is VW's CEO and Germany's highest-paid executive with an annual income of some 16 million euros ($16.7 million). The other one is the grandson and heir of the legendary Ferdinand Porsche, who along with his family is the co-owner of VW.

Martin Winterkorn (right in the picture), aged 67, pitted against Ferdinand Piech (left in the picture), aged 77. Two power-hungry men who had been on the same page for a long time while turning Volkswagen into one of the world's most successful carmakers.

Over 10 million vehicles sold annually, boasting annual revenues of 202 billion euros.

The future is at stake

But now it's all about finding the right strategy and deciding who'll call the shots. You've got an anything but easy-going, gung-ho co-owner, who wants to manage VW from the perspective of an autocratic family business. And you've got a successful manager and talented engineer at retirement age. Both are behind VW's success story.

It's a company owning such brands as Porsche, Bugatti, MAN and Scania. But when talking about VW's future, neither of the two men seems the right choice. They both have their prime time behind them, while for the company itself it may still be ahead.

The young ones are called upon to step up to the plate

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Volkswagen aspires to become the world's largest carmaker by dethroning Toyota. The finishing line appears in sight, but there's no guarantee of success. New ideas are required as are new dynamic executives, who are able to inspire both employees and clients.

What's needed is a new leadership, which analyzes past mistakes in a sober way and hasn't been worn out yet by protracted in-house power struggles. So far, nobody seems to have the courage to give Piech or Winterkorn a piece of mind, although that would be what's needed right now.

Enjoy retirement!

The Piech/Winterkorn era has been a good one for the company, and the figures speak for themselves. Within just seven years, bottom-line profit has soared from 6.4 billion euros to almost 18 billion euros, with more units now being sold than ever before.

But there have been a few mistakes too. Lately, sales in the important US market have tumbled, with the firm's expensive Chattanooga facility not working to capacity. And VW doesn't have a really cheap model yet.

Volkswagen's fortunes have come to depend heavily on the Chinese market, but the China business is showing signs of weakness.

In addition, VW lags behind in developing a sustainable e-car. In other words, there's lots to do for the young ones, who will bring fresh impetus and dynamism. And that's exactly what the company's workforce of some 600,000 is expecting too.

The two old wranglers should really call it a day and enjoy their much-deserved retirement.

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