Blog: Dave LeggettPiech plays Pischetsrieder

Dave Leggett | 8 May 2006

Last week was an important one for Volkswagen. A festering sore was to be subjected to a little public scrutiny: old guard versus reformers, out in the open. Would reform-minded CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder get the backing he needs or not? On the surface, he got the backing he sought when his contract was extended for five years by the Volkswagen supervisory board.

The ‘vote of confidence’ was unanimous, apparently. But there’s the rub. Unanimous? What happened to the entrenched opposition to Pischetsrieder and his restructuring mission among the supervisory board’s labour representatives? Why the sudden change of heart from them?

The suspicion is that Pischetsrieder won them over by making private concessions on future job cut numbers and plant closures. We’ll be keeping an especially close eye on what Volkswagen board members have to say on the subject of restructuring over the coming weeks. It has gone quiet for now.

Supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piech is an astute chap who has been around the block a few times. He knows how to play politics and play the media. He doesn’t want any new king of the mountain trying to demolish the castle he built up and it sounds like he knew exactly how to play the shareholders’ questions last week at the VW AGM.

I would guess that internal VW conflict will be carrying on behind the scenes, with the occasional breach into the public domain. Cracks have perhaps been papered over. But there is a feeling that an old hand with Machiavellian tendencies got his way last week. And that old hand wasn’t Pischetsrieder, who tried to play it straight and was snookered.

GOLDING’S TAKE: VW retains Pischetsrieder but not its dignity


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