By on February 8, 2017


Ferdinand Piëch, former chairman of Volkswagen and grandson of Beetle creator Ferdinand Porsche, is in hot water with his former company.

The ex-chairman resigned in April 2015 — five months before the diesel emissions scandal broke — after the company’s steering committee put his future to a vote. Piëch lost after his rival, then-CEO Martin Winterkorn, saw VW management rally to his side.

A suspiciously hostile divide existed between both men at the time, and recent comments by Piëch may explain why the two doomed executives became such bitter enemies. To say that VW’s supervisory board isn’t happy with his comments would be an understatement.

Reuters reports Piëch recently told the German publications Bild am Sonntag and Der Spiegel that he accused the board members of inaction after learning about the emissions cheating.

The rigged diesel engines were first discovered by researchers in the U.S., and before long, American regulators were demanding answers. Piëch claims that he first heard of the cheating by way of an Israeli security firm. During a March 2015 board meeting, he raised the issue with other top brass, including Winterkorn.

Winterkorn reportedly downplayed the issue, Piëch said, and told him everything was under control.

The former CEO resigned just days after the scandal broke in September of that year. Currently, Winterkorn is under investigation in his home country, suspected of committing fraud by concealing knowledge of the rigged engines.

Following the meeting, Piëch “distanced” himself from Winterkorn, telling others as much. So great was the acrimony between the two that the company’s steering committee was forced into an emergency meeting to decide who would be kicked off the island. Of course, Winterkorn’s victory would be short-lived.

Now, the top brass that abandoned Piëch are condemning him for his remarks.

“The supervisory board of Volkswagen AG emphatically repudiates the assertions made by Ferdinand Piëch as reported recently in the media,” VW’s supervisory board said in a statement released today. “The board of management will carefully weigh the possibility of measures and claims against Mr. Piëch.”

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8 Comments on “Volkswagen Brass Fights Back After Ex-Chairman Points Finger… at Them...”

  • avatar

    Based on Piëch’s reputation and how he was forced out, my guess is this is more likely to be him trying to stir up trouble than it is for his statements to be accurate.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    What did Mr Winterkorn know, and when did he know it?


  • avatar

    To say that none of the three parties involved (Piesch, Winterkorn, the board) have much credibility at this point is an understatement.

    I doubt Piesch made as big of a deal about this in a board meeting as he claims, (generally one tries to avoid loudly bringing up criminal wrongdoing committed by the COMPANY YOU ARE THE CHAIRMAN OF during a meeting of a bunch of future court witnesses/board members) but I don’t believe that Winterkorn and the board were as ignorant of the whole affair as THEY claim either.

  • avatar

    I sincerely doubt that Herr Dr. Piech was completely in the dark about the emissions scandal, but the falling out with Winterkorn, his protege, in 2015 was very odd, even for Piech.

    I suspect that early in 2015 he discovered how bad things really were and at that point started creating trouble for Winterkorn by asking lots of very pointed questions.

    Piech is Machiavelli incarnate, and his “distancing” from Winterkorn could very possibly be a ruse: once Piech was made aware that the gig was up, this may have been his way of throwing others under the bus to shield himself.

    Best story about Piech is Bob Lutz’s retelling of Piech’s demands for tighter panel gaps on the Golf IV (paraphrasing here): he pulled a group of engineers into a room and said, “The new Golf will have 2mm panel gaps. I have all of your names. If I do not have 2mm panel gaps in six months, you will be fired.”

    When you lead with that kind of autocracy, you get people too scared to speak truth to power.

    • 0 avatar

      That Lutz story makes you wonder what Piech said to the diesel engineers. Something about getting emissions down and performance up, ‘or else’?

      • 0 avatar

        Wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest, though I suspect it was Winterkorn channeling Piech.

        Ultimately, it was Piech who created Volkswagen’s modern corporate culture of fear. Piech had vision and the means to will that vision into reality. The problem is the way in which he did it: through fear, intimidation, sowing dissent and chaos. It leads to a company where nobody is willing to speak up when it really matters.

  • avatar

    I love watching assholes throw each other under the bus. You simply can’t have a cover up that big without lots of people knowing about it.

    Let the shit show continue!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not so sure there were that many people involved. It was a programming scam, and that can be limited in terms of the people originally “in the know”. That also limits the number of people needed to cover it up.

      The paper trail would be small, allowing just a few people to get rid of memos and meeting minutes. A lot of engineers (and Bosch) would have suspicions, but not a lot of hard facts/evidence to go on.

      They kept it all under wraps for several years, until scientists did a deep dive into the electronics. That should make you think the inner circle was very small. In an American business, the janitors know everything, but in a German business, where only the German penchant for record-keeping needs to be stifled, the strict adherence to chain of command can get the job done.

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