Ferdinand Piech, chairman of the Volkswagen Group, repeated his denial of a report last week in the German Handelsblatt newspaper that he would step down for health reasons in the next few months and be replaced by VW CEO Martin Winterkorn. Piech furthermore said that he will at least serve out the full term of his current contract, which runs into 2017, leaving open the possibility that he will continue to run the Volkswagen empire even longer. “I will stay for at least as long as my contract runs,” Piech told reporters at the Frankfurt Motor Show, “I’m feeling good.”
For his part, Winterkorn dismissed concerns that the recent departure of a number of top VW Group executives would leave the company without a suitable replacement for himself once Piech does retire and Winterkorn, as expected, takes the top position at VW.
The two men are said to be close confidantes and they have worked together to guide VW’s global expansion, bringing the company considerable financial success in recent years. Karl-Thomas Neumann, who used to run VW’s China operations, is now running Opel for GM, former Audi sales chief Peter Schwarzenbauer is now working for BMW running MINI, Rolls-Royce and BMWmotorrad, and Audi’s former R&D head Wolfgang Duerheimer just left the VW Group after turning down an offer to take his old job back as Bentley CEO.
“There are enough young people up and coming,” Winterkorn, 66, said.