The power struggle at German carmaker Volkswagen (VW) has taken a new twist with supervisory board chief Ferdinand Piëch reportedly making a new attempt to oust CEO Winterkorn. But Piëch has denied plotting a coup.
VW supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piëch said Thursday that he was not "organizing Martin Winterkorn's replacement."
"We talked last week and have agreed to work together," he told the mass-circulation daily Bild, after German media reported earlier in the day that he was plotting to have Winterkorn replaced.
According to German news agency DPA and public broadcaster NDR, Piëch was trying to drum up a majority on the full supervisory board to have Winterkorn removed from his post as VW CEO.
The coup was to be carried out during the carmaker's annual shareholders meeting on May 5, the media said, with Piëch hoping to secure enough votes to have Winterkorn replaced with either Porsche chief Matthias Müller or Skoda head Winfried Vahland.
On Thursday, VW refused to comment on the report, with a spokesman for Europe's biggest carmaker saying only that the reports were "speculation we are not commenting on."
Struggle for power continues
Last Friday, the six-member steering committee of VW's 20-strong supervisory board attempted to draw a line under a bitter power struggle between the two men, insisting that Winterkorn was "the best possible chief executive for Volkswagen," and that his contract should be extended.
The steering committee comprises six of the most influential members of VW's supervisory board, including the head of the general works committee, the leader of the powerful IG Metall union and the head of the regional state of Lower Saxony where the carmaker is based.
The dispute erupted after Piëch, a member of the powerful Porsche dynasty that is a shareholder in Volkswagen, sent shockwaves through German industry by declaring in a magazine interview that he was "distancing himself" from Winterkorn.
Until then Winterkorn had been seen as Piëch's close ally and heir apparent on the supervisory board of the 12-brand carmaker.
Piëch was himself VW's chief executive between 1993 and 2002, before becoming its supervisory board chief.
While Piëch gave no details as to what caused the rift between him and Winterkorn, media reports speculated it had a lot to do with VW's recent poor performance on the US market and sales problems in China. There was also much talk about VW having failed to produce a budget car and about not having managed to come up with a viable e-car model.
uhe/sri (dpa, AFP, Reuters)