It hasn't been that much at VW for a long time: In front of other managers, the boss questions the integrity of the supervisory board - and accuses controllers of crimes. Is losing brand leadership the price diess have to pay? Other conflicts also resonate.
Wolfsburg (dpa) - The nerves are bare in Wolfsburg. Once again. But at the moment as clearly as maybe not since the start of "Dieselgate" almost five years ago.
VW CEO Herbert Diess relinquishes leadership of the main brand in the largest car group in the world. Voluntarily and from their own insight - or does he have to hand them over? Is it a final warning to the offensive and dashing manager after the problems and communication breakdowns have increased in recent months? Official presentation: This must "get more space" for strategic tasks. Unofficial reading with some things: He could still be happy to at least be able to continue to control the entire group.
At Volkswagen, they are almost used to power struggles, conflicts of interest and other disputes - to the detriment of the employees, who keep seeing their company in a bad light. But now the top manager in the dispute over the responsibility for mistakes may have gone too far.
In front of more than 3,000 managers, Diess complained in a video conference about piercing sensitive information about the difficulties the manufacturer is facing. With the Golf 8 figurehead, production lags behind the targets dramatically, software problems plague the model, and many employees feel left alone with the increasing pressure.
The billion-dollar hope ID.3 is also delayed. When it came to the auto purchase premium, Diess ventured far ahead with claims that failed. Then there was the initially perceived communication about a racist internet advertising video. And the question as to whether Diess' alleged desire for an early contract extension appears appropriate in such a mixed situation.
First, the influential IG Metall shop stewards broke their patience. In an unprecedented campaign, the members of the board expressed their suspicion over long distances in an open letter. One is "increasingly massively concerned", missing a clear crisis strategy regarding the production problems and the public image that VW gives.
But Diess also obviously felt attacked because internals had been scattered. The week before last he had to explain himself to the supervisory board. Some of those present are said to have hardly believed their ears in what followed in the manager round last Thursday.
"The events on the supervisory board last week and the communication about the events on the supervisory board do not help the company," said Diess. "They are also a sign of a lack of integrity and compliance. These are crimes that occur in the presidency and can obviously be assigned there." One has to "be careful that the supervisory board, our highest body, does not in principle weaken us in this position". That was sitting. But not only with the other managers, but also with the inspectors criticized in this way.
A corporate spokesman said it was not Diess' intention to attack their own supervisors. In the tightest circle of power are next to chief controller Hans Dieter Pötsch, representatives of the Porsche and Piëch families, Lower Saxony's Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD), IG Metall boss Jörg Hofmann and high works councils. "Dr. Diess did not want to express that members of the Supervisory Board have committed a criminal offense," said VW. The statements were "made in the context of press reports, on the basis of which, in repeated cases, obviously confidential information had also reached the media on issues of the Supervisory Board".
Nevertheless, some apparently felt that this was undermining the authority of the highest corporate body. This is said to have been about to be kicked out, is sometimes heard - above all, formal legal concerns would have prevented some decision-makers from doing so.
However, the idea of making the experienced Ralf Brandstätter from co-managing director of the core brand to head of vehicles with the VW logo with sole operational responsibility also came about regardless of the recent escalations. Some commentators also question whether it is a happy decision to take Diess as the main brand, despite all the criticism, in the difficult current phase.
It is no secret that there has been a long crisis, especially between works council chief Bernd Osterloh and Diess. Even in the "Future Pact" austerity program, the two clashed violently when the then new brand boss had just come back from BMW. After that there was something like a castle peace for some time. In connection with the difficult Golf 8 start-up - which dies out in social networks as a great success, which sometimes causes head shakes on the bands - the conflict sparked again.
At the latest now, the manager, who previously headed the group and core brand in person, will face a delicate test. He apologized for his comments as "inappropriate and wrong," the control panel said. "The members of the Supervisory Board accepted Dr. Diess' apology and will continue to support him in his work in the future."
The Porsche / Piëch clan, who is convinced of Diess' management qualities and future orientation, is - for the time being - also continuing to pursue the doctorate in production technology. "Mr. Diess has apologized in all forms," the VW majority owners said - but associated a clear warning. "It is also clear that the company must now get into calmer waters."