In the last few weeks, Volkswagen has finally become the world’s number-one automobile manufacturer, following a four-year tussle for the control of Porsche. For the chairman of VW’s Supervisory Board Ferdinand Piech it is the end of a lifelong struggle to unite the two companies, both of which were founded by Ferdinand Porsche. His goal was to become the number one car company by 2018 but as others ran into troubles of different kinds, VW stayed focussed and produced more cars. The company now sells 8.5 million vehicles a year and is aiming to push that up to 11 million by 2018. At the age of 75 Piech might be forgiven for now wanting to take life a little easier, his place in automotive history assured. Piech has long been opposed to getting involved in a distraction such as Formula 1. He wants to sell cars based on the technology that they deliver to the public, not on technology that is developed for a specific set of sporting regulations. Some at VW believe that the company should get into F1 and use its global reach to sell more cars, but Piech is the boss and his views are the ones that matter. His primary lieutenant in recent years has been Martin Winterkorn, who is now the chairman of the board of management of Volkswagen and also the chairman of the supervisory boards of Audi and Porsche. He is now 65 and under the company’s new rules will be required to stand down when he reaches the age of 67 in May 2014.
The word from Germany is that Winterkorn is likely to become the next chairman of the Volkswagen supervisory board, but he will continue to follow Piech’s policies. The question that is now being asked is who will replace Winterkorn as head of VW and whether this will have an effect on the company’s sporting policies.
The man deemed to be the most likely is Rupert Stadler (49), who has been head of the board of management of Audi AG since 2007. It is suggested that Wolfgang Durheimer (53) will then take over Audi. He was recently put on to the board of Audi AG after a career that has seen him as head of development at Porsche and then as head of Bentley and Bugatti. Also moving on to the Audi board is another high flyer 44-year-old Italian Luca de Meo, a refugee from Fiat.
On the Volkswagen management board are also a couple of ambitious youngsters in Christian Klingler (43), the head of sales and marketing and Arno Antlitz (42), the head of accounting. The current head of Porsche Matthias Müller (59) is too old to be in the running for further big jobs.
Durheimer has also said that he thinks that Volkswagen should have a Formula 1 programme in 2018, but it remains to be seen whether this will actually happen. Piech remains the strong man in VW and as long as he does it is highly unlikely that the company (or any of its subsidiaries) will get involved in Grand Prix racing.