Düsseldorf, Berlin Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess was not even invited to the important meeting. The tops of the supervisory board met on Tuesday evening to discuss whether the 63-year-old could even remain VW boss. The discussion lasted over four hours, according to the members of the Presidium after the end of the meeting. “It was tough and frustrating.” There is no rapprochement in sight.
It remains to be seen who will manage the company in the future. Representatives of the supervisory board want to discuss this in the coming days. One thing is clear: the different opinions clash hard in the Presidium. Represented on the committee are Hans Michel Piëch and Wolfgang Porsche as well as Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) as delegates of the major shareholders.
On the employee side, works council boss Daniela Cavallo and IG Metall boss Jörg Hofmann sit at the table. While the family has always stood by Diess in the past, the employees have moved away from the controversial CEO.
Since Diess announced the reduction of up to 35,000 jobs in the Wolfsburg parent plant alone, the VW Group has been in a state of emergency.
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It is true that employee representatives had previously openly called for a VW boss to be dismissed from the other supervisory boards; After a few days, however, the representatives of the four power blocs settled such conflicts peacefully.
Compromise in location planning
The special thing about this dispute can be seen in the operative business. The work continues, past the chairman of the board. Specifically, it is about investment planning for the coming years. Every November the supervisory board decides on the proposal of the board of directors in which plant which models are to be built. If a location goes empty-handed for promising models for a long time, this usually entails job cuts.
The multi-brand group (Audi, Porsche, Seat, Skoda, VW, Traton) has billions of euros to distribute with over 100 factories. It’s about a lot of money and influence.
This year, the CEO, who otherwise plays a central role, is largely left out in the planning round, the Handelsblatt learned from corporate circles. The talks with the works councils were largely carried out by the bosses of the individual brands and Oliver Blume as director of production and Gunnar Kilian, Member of the Board of Management for Human Resources.
The actors have also reached an agreement for the construction of a new plant in Wolfsburg, in which the production of a new series of e-models is to be considerably cheaper. While VW brand boss Ralf Brandstätter described the project called “Trinity” as the “best solution” ever, Diess kept silent publicly. It was only hours after the announcement that he followed up, hoping the approval would go as quickly in Lower Saxony as in the new federal states. Tesla is building a factory there in record time.
According to reports, Diess will be informed about the consultations on the occupancy of the plants in Hanover, Wolfsburg and other regions. As a rule, he was not directly involved in the respective negotiations, according to corporate circles. From Diess’ environment it was said that he did not have to interfere in the operative business if things were going well. He puts the focus on the overarching technology topics. Spokespersons for VW, the state and the works council declined to comment. A spokesman for the Porsche / Piëch family repeated that they were behind the VW boss.
A board reorganization should redistribute power
The isolation of the CEO also applies to the plans for a new management board, as group insiders report. The board is to be changed in at least three positions. A board member for IT will be new.
VW brand boss Brandstätter is to move up to the group board. Legal director Hiltrud Werner will leave the company for a candidate, it said. However, the considerations about restructuring the board of directors have not been resolved. One thing is certain: the replacement of the top management does not go back to the initiative of the VW boss. “If this stayed, it would be fenced in,” says an insider.
But it would be the compromise that could keep Diess in office. Because the representatives of the works council and the state government still prefer a new start at the top of the group, as it was called in VW circles. The Porsche / Piëch family is sticking to Diess – also because Diess has built trust on the capital market with its radical electrical course.
But here, too, doubts are growing. Investors and analysts have long been very satisfied with Herbert Diess, but after a steep rise, the VW share price has been moving sideways for several months. In any case, VW has not yet managed to catch up with its big rival Tesla on the stock exchange.
More: Hardened fronts in the supervisory board: dispute over Herbert Diess blocked VW