Volkswagen’s shareholders, at their annual general meeting, learned that in a surprise vote the supervisory board had extended Chief Executive Bernd Pischetsrieder’s contract for another five years.
VW’s chairman, Ferdinand Piëch, has sided with the carmaker’s unions and questioned the CEO’s future.
Pischetsrieder told investors: “Of course, we know that given today’s global conditions, we are not competitive in some areas.”
The question of how to make VW’s German workers more competitive had threatened Pischetsrieder’s job. He was advocating major changes.
Institutional investor Ulrich Hocker said they are needed: “It can’t be possible that in our Wolfsburg plant a worker costs 55 euros an hour while at Audi in Ingolsdadt it’s only 40 euros. Wolfsburg’s costs have to come down; either by working longer hours or by reducing salaries.”
Pischetsrieder had previously talked of cutting as many as 20,000 jobs, but at the AGM he said nothing about the details of the restructuring.
There is speculation that he has been forced to accept compromises in return for the supervisory board members who represent workers’ interests voting for him to keep his job.