Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech and the automaker's CEO, Martin Winterkorn, will discuss the company's leadership crisis when they meet within the next few days, a German newspaper reported.
The two executives will discuss Piech's statement that he doesn't want Winterkorn to succeed him as VW chairman when they meet, Handelsblatt reported.
Piech publicly withdrew his confidence in Winterkorn when he told the German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published Friday that he was keeping himself "at a distance" from the CEO and that Winterkorn will not succeed him as chairman.
Until the interview Winterkorn, 67, was widely tipped to succeed Piech, 77, who was expected to retire when his term as chairman expires in April 2017. Winterkorn's contract as CEO runs out in December 2016.
Analysts said Winterkorn could become a "lame duck" at the helm of the world's No. 2 automaker and he may be forced to retire early. Winterkorn has let it be known that he will fight for his job. When asked about his future on Monday at a trade fair in Hanover, Germany, he told reporters: "I have one."
Some industry watchers in Germany said Piech undermined Winterkorn because he doesn't believe the CEO, though he is top-class engineer and workaholic, has the vision to lead the 12-brand automotive giant as chairman.
Winterkorn has the public backing of the key VW power players - the state of Lower Saxony, the powerful works council and Piech's cousin Wolfgang Porsche - but this may not be enough save his job.
Former Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking had the support of the Porsche family and unions but Piech succeeded in ousting him, said former BMW executive Helmut Becker, who leads the Munich-based IWK institute for economic analysis. "Piech knows what he is doing and will assume that he can get the supervisory board to implement his decisions," he told German television station N-TV. Piech may have turned against Winterkorn because the CEO held on to his post too long, Becker said.
Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said in an investors note today: "Most observers believe that Winterkorn on balance has done a good job. VW's problems aren't new and are mostly a result of management and supervisory board decision taking. Nevertheless, the positive scenario now would be for a quick change in management."
The equity research firm speculated that Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller could replace Winterkorn as VW Group CEO. Last month Mueller, 62, said he’s young and fit enough to succeed Winterkorn, dismissing a report that he had no interest in leading VW Group because he is in his 60s
Among tasks facing a new leadership would be to turn round VW's underperformance in the key U.S. market; improve the core VW's brand's low profitability; and launch a low-cost but profitable car for developing markets.