Ingolstadt. The future of Volkswagen's troubled Seat subsidiary will be more uncertain than ever under Martin Winterkorn, the incoming chairman of the Spanish carmaker's parent company, Volkswagen group.
Consideration is being given to separating the Spanish brand from VW and selling it, executives close to Winterkorn told Automobilwoche.
In his current position as Audi CEO, Winterkorn is responsible for Seat, which is part of the Audi brand group. Winterkorn already is omitting Seat from his current planning.
Audi's new A1 entry-premium car for 2009 will be built in VW's Brussels factory, not by Seat in Spain. Winterkorn and Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt reached an agreement on this on Friday, Dec. 1.
Winterkorn has had direct oversight of Seat since 2002, and he is known to have lost patience with the Spanish automaker's inability to deliver profits.
Bernhard opposes Seat sale
The Spanish company has been deeply involved with the Audi A1's development, as it was with the A3 Sportback, and Seat executives had hoped production would be assigned to the Martorell plant in Catalonia, Spain. The additional volume there would have improved Seat's capacity utilization and profitability.
VW brand chief Wolfgang Bernhard is believed to oppose the sale of Seat, but he is thought to be on his way out. According to VW sources, Bernhard is trying to negotiate a way out of his employment contract, possibly to return to DaimlerChrysler.
Outgoing VW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder also is opposed to dumping Seat. In October, he was quoted as saying that selling Seat would be a mistake because the unit had access to technology from the Volkswagen group, which would give a possible buyer technical know-how and insider knowledge about the carmaker.
Seat sales for the year through October, the most recent figures available, were up 4.4 percent from the year-earlier period to 313,595 units, according to the European carmakers' association ACEA. Market share edged up one-tenth of 1 percent to 2.5 percent, the group said.
You may e-mail Pia Krix at [email protected]
You may e-mail Henning Krogh at [email protected]