Volkswagen group Supervisory Board Chairman Ferdinand Piech is under fire.
Questions are mounting about his knowledge of alleged misdeeds at VW while he was chairman of the management board from 1993 to 2002.
The VW executives under media scrutiny for their reported role in the scandal launched their careers during Piech's reign.
Volkswagen bashers want to use the corruption scandal at Volkswagen to get even with Ferdinand Piech, purposely ignoring the great things he did to rescue the brand.
The former VW group chairman and current head of the supervisory board is a gifted engineer, visionary and ruthless perfectionist who often humbled his critics.
German newspapers run stories about the VW scandal daily. They allege that VW business trips turned into sex parties and that family members of prominent union officials purchased new cars for practically nothing.
While all this was happening Piech pursued his "hobbies." He bought and restored luxury brands such as Bentley and Bugatti. At great expense, he developed a Clima-tronic air conditioning system with direct and indirect ventilation and had it installed in a monster-sized, upper-premium sedan called the Phaeton.
Piech's family business, Porsche Holding Salzburg, also won contracts to import VW models into growth markets in central and eastern Europe.
Bernd Pischetsrieder, who took over from Piech as VW group chairman, has long refrained from criticizing his predecessor.
But Pischetsrieder now must clean out the stables.
Piech has responded to the scandal by disappearing from view.
He may already be counting how many days he has left in his job.
E-mail Automobilwoche Editor Franz Rother at [email protected].
The resulting 1996 Passat and 1997 Golf were decisive steps in elevating the brand to near-premium status -- far ahead of VW's traditional competitors.
And the much-maligned Phaeton has not only sparked technological advances, it is also the basis for Bentley's hot selling models.
On the cost-cutting side, the hiring of controversial but effective executives such as former purchasing chief Jose Ignacio Lopez brought immediate results.
But when Piech took over VW the close working relationship between management and workers already was well established. For him to make the company better, he could not make tough demands on workers and still achieve deep cuts in labor costs. He would have never won if he chose to fight those parallel wars.
Piech deserves praise for fixing VW group's brand positioning and improving things on the product side.
He doesn't deserve blame for failing to change the working relationship between German companies and their employees.
The time for that is now.
It is not right to let a spate of politically motivated mudslinging taint Piech's image.
E-mail Staff Reporter Jens Meiners at [email protected].