Meet the New Porsche Chief; Wiedeking Dethroned

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Der Spiegel has it on good authority that Porsche’s Wendelin Wiedeking is history. The Porsche/Piech families sent Wendy packing. A new successor is already found: Michael Macht. He is director of production, and has a good reputation in the business—for producing cars. This indicates in which direction the board meeting on July 23 will go.

Two deals are on the table. Either the Sheik of Qatar will invest heavily into Porsche. Or Volkswagen buys Porsche. Wiedeking is for the Sheik. And that’s why he needs to go. The families apparently favor the Volkswagen solution. Porsche is sending out meek denials, along the lines of “no such information” or “this needs a board resolution, and we don’t know of any.” The denials are falling on deaf ears. Throughout the country, newspapers cite “board members” who say that Wiedeking is done.

In Germany, the size of the platinum parachute is already making headlines. Der Spiegel writes it could be “easily more than €100M.”

Porsche’s hometown paper Stuttgarter Nachrichten writes: “Piech has the aura of a boss-murderer: Whether the former Audi boss Paefgen, or the former VW CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder, or the former director Geudevert—nobody who fell from grace with Piech could maintain his job. Wiedeking thought he could be the first to survive Piech’s thunderbolt. He was wrong.”

For Michael Macht, it’s the second attempt to get the top job at Porsche. Groomed by Wiedeking, Macht was slated to take over Wiedeking’s job in Zuffenhausen after Wiedeking would take over Wolfsburg. This didn’t happen. With Piech in full power, Macht (his name translates to “power”) will have less. Also, Piech is not adverse to corporate cleansing: After the top dog has been sent into exile, his former vassals often find themselves in strange locations or meaningless jobs.

When everything is said and done, Volkswagen will have ten brands, the tenth being Porsche. Volkswagen already produces more than 30 percent of what goes into a Porsche. Volkswagen will most likely have three owners: Lower Saxony with 20 percent, Qatar with 20 percent, the Porsche/Piech clan with 51 percent, and some stock floating around.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Herb Herb on Jul 17, 2009

    It will be interesting to see what will happen when Piech dies one day. How many madmen will be needed to replace this single madman? How will they succeed with an inherited conglomerate of brands/companies? VW, Audi, Porsche, Skoda, Seat, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti. Strange enough, that they still make money, given the overlap within their core business brands VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat. Then you have to consider the shareholder groups, like the Sheiks of Lower Saxony, of Qatar, maybe, other interest groups like political parties, trade unions... All ingredients for a pretty nice soap opera/drama. Let's wait and see.

  • Th009 Th009 on Jul 17, 2009

    While Piech has everything to do with building the biggest stable of brands in the industry (don't forget Scania!), thanks for the profitability and the brand management really go to VW's management team, who had to deal with the results of Piech's shopping spree. That team has succeeded in a combination of platform strategy, manufacturing cost reductions and brand positioning, none of those easy (just as GM). Pischetsrieder, Winterkorn, Bernhard et al deserve a lot of credit for taking VW to where it is today.