BERLIN (Reuters) -- Investors hope that Volkswagen will be able to revive profitability at its core division, cure underperformance overseas and bury lingering plans for acquisitions after the resignation of Chairman Ferdinand Piech.
Piech, the mastermind of VW's global expansion and a towering figure at the German group for more than two decades, stepped down on Saturday after losing a showdown he had provoked with CEO Martin Winterkorn.
Almost 80 percent of VW investors expect the carmaker's stock market value to increase after Piech's departure as it may help unlock greater earnings potential at the 12-brand group, a survey by advisory firm Evercore ISI showed.
The exit of Piech, who spearheaded VW's campaign to make everything from motorcycles to 40-ton trucks and has publicly shown affection for Fiat Chrysler's Alfa Romeo brand, also curbs the risk of distracting purchases at a time when VW is seeking to cut billions of euros of costs at its core division, said Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst.
"Piech's departure is good news for VW," said Ellinghorst who raised his recommendation on the stock to "buy" from "hold." "VW has a better chance to turn itself into a more profitable and valuable business."
The relentless push for scale under the once-close Winterkorn-Piech alliance, which led VW to almost double sales to 202 billion euros ($219 billion) last year and nearly triple group profit, has papered over structural shortcomings at the German behemoth, analysts have said.
"More than 600,000 workers build slightly fewer vehicles than market champion Toyota with 350,000 workers," wrote Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of the Center of Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen. "The problems strike at the heart of VW."
There are signs that VW's top management is starting to adjust strategy to overcome shortcomings in foreign markets.
Two company sources familiar with VW's product strategy told Reuters preliminary talks with China's Great Wall had been held this year to explore the possibility of joint development of low-cost vehicles to tackle VW's chronic weakness in southeast Asia and India.
Another company source said VW was busy working on a small SUV for Brazil, where those models are selling well, and is aiming to present a new concept car next year.
"VW has various trouble spots and the door now appears open for much needed change," said Frankfurt-based Bankhaus Metzler analyst Juergen Pieper.