More changes at VW:
The VW board also approved plans from former Audi boss and
now Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn, to dissolve the VW and
Audi brand groups and create new management-level positions for
sales, production and R&D.
Wolfgang Bernhard, chairman of the now defunct VW brand
group, will leave the world's fourth-largest carmaker by mutual
agreement at the end of January as a result of the reshuffle.
"Winterkorn, who will take over the management of the
Volkswagen brand group in addition to his present duties,
emphasised that Bernhard had furthered the process of
restructuring of the company and hence increased the
productivity of the Volkswagen brand," VW said in a statement.
The 59-year-old CEO will also assume the post of research
and development chief, while his production boss at Audi,
Jochem Heizmann, will be responsible for all of the group's
manufacturing plants accross the globe.
Winterkorn will therefore be surrounded by allies since
Volkswagen personnel boss Horst Neumann also worked under him
at Audi while the his former finance chief succeeded him as
interim head of the luxury brand.
Bernhard, an ally of ousted VW CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder,
had been widely expected to resign after a boardroom coup that
installed Winterkorn at the helm.
"We view this as a negative for the stock since Bernhard is
an able manager and proven cost cutter who has been
instrumental in restoring VW to profitability. We believe VW
stock to be extremely risky at its current peak valuation, and
only the possibility of a Porsche bid keeps us at a market
perform rating," wrote Sanford Bernstein analyst Stephen
Investors have speculated whether Porsche <PSHG_p.DE>,
which has sought authorisation to raise its capital by up to 8
billion euros, may be preparing a full takeover of VW, in which
it already controls 27.4 percent of votes.
Following the November coup against Pischetsrieder, who
resigned at the end of last year, few analysts believed
Bernhard would remain at VW due to recurrent speculation that
Winterkorn sought to marginalise his role in management.
The outgoing VW brand group chairman had focused his
efforts on restructuring the loss-making German operations at
VW, but his plans for thousands of job cuts at the six west
German VW plants and the sale of parts of VW's uncompetitive
German automotive components business sparked strong opposition
from the company's powerful worker representatives.
Bernhard, considered one of the best executives in the
industry, joined Volkswagen on Feb. 1, 2005, and took over as
head of the VW brand group in May that year.
(Additional reporting by Mathieu Robbins in London and
Johannes Hellstrom in Stockholm)