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Don't expect Piech to leave VW quietly

Volkswagen AG Chairman Ferdinand Piech doesn't appear ready to give up his throne graciously.

At VW's main presentation at the Frankfurt auto show on Tuesday, Sept. 11, Piech acknowledged his officially designated successor, Bernd Pischetsrieder, with a brusque wave at him in the first row of the audience and a cursory description.

"He is a customer-oriented freak," Piech said of the former BMW chairman.

Pischetsrieder wasn't asked to the stage, nor did VW's cameras project a picture of the bearded chairman-to-be on a huge screen above the stage. Piech, who will retire as management board chairman in April, is expected to become chairman of the 20-member supervisory board at that time.

The supervisory board is similar to a U.S. board of directors.

In a first for the Frankfurt show, VW took no questions at its press conference. Immediately after Piech's 15-minute speech, VW spokesman Klaus Kochs announced that the press conference was over so Adam Opel AG could prepare the hall for its event.

The Opel press conference wasn't for another 45 minutes, however. VW traditionally has been unconcerned at Frankfurt whether or not its events ran into a competitor's time slot.

But the press wasn't to be kept from Pischetsrieder. Ignoring Piech, journalists crowded around the VW crown prince and tried to question him, with little success. While he was still trying to answer a question, a VW publicist pulled Pischetsrieder away from the mob - by the arm.

The brief appearance was Pischetsrieder's first public appearance since the VW board officially nominated him as Piech's successor on Sept. 7.

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@autonews.com

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