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VW CEO Winterkorn dismisses power struggle, oozes calm

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has told shareholders they shouldn't worry too much about the power struggle that had rocked the German carmaker recently. From his point of view, the situation is under control.

As Volkswagen's shareholders gathered Tuesday for their annual meeting in Hanover, Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, who'd only just emerged as winner in a power struggle with former advisory board chief Ferdinand Piëch, tried to calm down the audience, saying the management crisis was over.

"There had been much speculation and also a good deal of exaggeration in recent weeks," Winterkorn told shareholders. "But what you have to know is that VW is a very healthy and well-positioned company and as such a firm with very good business results and equally good prospects."

Insiders said an announcement on the replacement for the 78-year-old board chairman Ferdinand Piëch, who had stepped down, was unlikely to be made in Hanover. Winterkorn for his part thanked Piëch for his work throughout the decades, noting that the man "had, like no other, put a stamp on the German auto industry."

Flexible structures

Tuesday's AGM is being chaired by Berthold Huber, a former head of Germany's IG Metall engineering union. It's the first time that a trade unionist has chaired a shareholder meeting of a major German company.

The gathering is expected to shed some light on VW's restructuring effort meant to lead to a more decentralized setup.

In a first move towards to this end, VW announced it would concentrate its MAN and Scania utility vehicle business under one roof, forming a special umbrella holding unit with a supervisory board of its own.

"We need clear in-house structures which will put us in a position to react fast and in a flexible manner to new developments," works council chief Bernd Osterloh commented.

hg/ng (dpa, Reuters)

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