The ground underneath Volkswagen CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder's feet got wobblier last week.
VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech told The Wall Street Journal the automaker's supervisory board was split over whether to extend the CEO's five-year contract, which expires in 2007.
That's the same Piech who, as CEO before Pischetsrieder, pushed to turn VW into a competitor of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The automaker spent tons of money on developing the slow-selling Phaeton and a new factory to build it, while redesigns of VW's mainstream models were delayed.
Since joining VW from BMW, Pischetsrieder has pushed VW to cut labor costs and has backed away from Piech's luxury plans. He hired cost-cutter Wolfgang Bernhard to run the VW brand. Those moves have angered the labor representatives on VW's supervisory board. Ten of the 20 members of the board represent labor.
Piech has been a swing vote. He recently joined with the labor representatives to back the appointment of a human resources official whom Pischetsrieder did not want.
At the end of the week, sources said supervisory board members Wendelin Wiedeking, Porsche's CEO, and Christian Wulff, premier of Lower Saxony, were firmly in Pischetsrieder's corner.