By on September 19, 2011


Will they or won’t they? That’s currently the talk amongst Germany’s auto execs. “They” are Volkswagen and Suzuki. And “will” refers to taking over Suzuki against its will. Yesterday, Der Spiegel, reported that Volkswagen is no longer barred from taking over Suzuki if Suzuki cancels its contract. Der Spiegel, of course, heard that from an interested party that telegraphs to Hamamatsu. “Be careful what you wish for.” Nonetheless, the rumor mill is at high revs. Let’s investigate.

Reuters called the usual bank analysts a wire service calls when nobody is talking.

“I think it is rather unlikely that Volkswagen will go for a hostile takeover of Suzuki,” said Christian Breitsprecher, and analyst at Macquarie Research. Commerzbank analyst Daniel Schwarz put it more bluntly: “VW simply won’t be able to take over all of Suzuki against his will.”  Agreed.

A hostile takeover of a Japanese company is a rare incident. A hostile takeover by foreigners is as likely as me getting Japanese citizenship (theoretically possible, but in practicality …) A hostile takeover of a Japanese car company is as probable as hell being occupied by Antarctica. Suzuki probably has taken a mega dose of poison pills, and if push comes to shove, there will be a horde of white samurai that will protect Suzuki from being abducted by gaijin.

In the unlikely event of a successful takeover, a high-ranking contact at an (unrelated) Japanese carmaker put it even more melodramatically:

How could VW successfully take over Suzuki at this point? The entire company is against VW and has embarked on an unprecedented public takedown campaign against VW. No way this will go forward. The immune system of Suzuki will attack and reject the virus.”

Shingi rarenai! (Incredible.)

Indeed, it is hard to believe that the autocratic management style of Volkswagen would succeed in a passive-aggressive environment called  Hamamatsu. In his early days at the helm of Volkswagen, Piech often complained about the “Lehmschicht” , the layer of clay he was unable to dig through at Volkswagen, something that was achieved only decades later, when all the clay was retired. In Hamamatsu, he would face a clay mountain. Just imagine the misunderstandings and things that get lost in translation …

Handy Crib Sheet


“Excuse me?”

“Mouichido itte kuremasuka.”

“Can you say that again?”

Mou sukoshi yukkuri itte onegaishimasu.”

“Please say that again a little more slowly”

“Kaite kudasai.”

“Write it down please!”


“I don’t understand.”

“Ah so.”

“Ach so.”

Meanwhile in Germany, nasty rumors are spreading that Ferdinand Piech, at 74 a teenager compared to the 84 year old Osamu Suzuki, could be faltering. Journalists invited to Volkswagen’s pre-Frankfurt Motor Show press bash, remarked that Piech looked distraught, if not disoriented.

The Financial Times is leading the charge here:

“After a difficult few days for the German carmaking group that saw Mr Piëch’s will thwarted on two fronts – its abortive alliance with Suzuki, and VW’s planned merger with Porsche – he was at an uncharacteristic loss for words. Shielded by his wife Ursula, he deflected most questions with soft, near-monosyllabic responses.”

Piech usually doesn’t say much, but the short remarks coming from his thinning lips usually are high-explosive grenades. He is famous for his soft spoken, but sharp digs. When he is under pressure, he gets even more quiet.

In Volkswagen circles, there sometimes was the remark that the 84 year old Suzuki possibly could require a successor soon, who might be less tough than the Old Man. Let’s hope the nasty journos have it wrong and it’s not Piech who requires a successor.


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14 Comments on “Suzuki Soapu Opera: Will They or Won’t They? Piech Faltering?...”

  • avatar

    VW can take their time. There is no need or reason fro them to rush ahead with a hostile takeover. Just keep the 19.9% and sit tight.

    As for the FT article and the “bad” news of the Porsche “merger” being delayed. Is that really a problem since Porsche isn`t going anywhere and will eventually fall totally and legally under VW’s wing. VW can be patient. They have shown this with Skoda and SEAT where they bought a stake and then increased that over time.

    I also recall a time when a foreign hostile takeover of a German company was considered “highly unlikely”. Yet Vodafone took over Mannesmann ( and it was controversial at the time. They paid $183billion in 2000, so not a tiny acquisition. The management did agree behind the scenes to it, so that would be a key difference with the current situation. However cultures change.

  • avatar

    Superb article and a great summary of why VW is completely out of luck with regard to taking over Suzuki. The old boy running Suzuki has the best set of warlike eyebrows I’ve seen in a while. He’d swat Piech away like a pesky gnat. And on a straight eye to eye staredown, he’d have Piech running away the same way you can spook a dog.

    When this story started in earnest a couple weeks ago, I googled Suzuki and its past alliances with other companies. Suzuki always came out best, although you could certainly argue he was pretty close to being “illegal” and just daring the other guy to take him on. Probably a bit of a bully, but he sure isn’t the least bit intimidated by Piech. It’s good to see Ferdy meet his match in the “I’ve got the biggest balls” scenario. He’s been scuppered.

  • avatar

    Like many Japanese conglomerates, Suzuki can take quite a beating and still remain. Their auto business isn’t that bad off , despite tiny market shares here, and their motorcycle division is huge. VW should cut their losses and take a walk.

    Nice chick in the video.

  • avatar

    Piech will hit senility first.

  • avatar

    Hardly conceivable.
    Aside from the motorcycle division, what would VW do with Suzuki’s marine division? Revive the “Schwimmwagen” (c.f.

  • avatar

    If VW want this, then they will have it. First they will up their stake, then gradually wait until more and more investors fall by the way side.

    But do they really want Suzuki and all it’s baggage? Why not just buy Mazda or Mitsubishi or both?

    • 0 avatar

      I think Mazda will eventually get together with Toyota –Hiroshima’s upcoming hybrid vehicles will feature the HSD system from Toyota City; they are also both related to the Sumitomo-Mitsui keiretsu, although Toyota is so big it’s like a keiretsu all by itself.

  • avatar

    Suzuki even hung tough when it was dealing with the Government of India which was initially of joint venture between Suzuki and the Government. After a decade or so in the alliance, Suzuki threatened to walk out until it was given majority control over the operations. In the end, the govt. relented.

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