June 8, 2020 / 1:48 PM / a month ago

Exclusive: Volkswagen supervisory board to discuss VW brand leadership - sources

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Volkswagen Chief Executive Herbert Diess may lose responsibility for managing the company’s core VW brand at an extraordinary supervisory board meeting due to be held on Monday, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Herbert Diess, CEO of German carmaker Volkswagen AG, walks in front of ID.3 pre-production prototypes during the presentation of Volkswagen's new electric car on the eve of the International Frankfurt Motor Show IAA in Frankfurt, Germany September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

Diess, who has come under fire after Volkswagen struggled to manage the launch of its next-generation flagship VW Golf, will remain chief executive of the group, which includes the Audi, Seat, Skoda, Audi, Porsche and Bentley brands, the sources said.

The contenders who could succeed Diess as head of the VW brand include Volkswagen’s Chief Operating Officer Ralf Brandstaetter and Porsche Chief Executive Oliver Blume.

The discussions are ongoing and have not reached a conclusion, the sources said.

Volkswagen declined to comment.

The power struggle at the top of the world’s largest carmaker comes as Diess attempts to get the company’s labour leaders, who control nine of the 19 seats on the supervisory board, to agree to painful costs cuts.

Diess has been pushing to cut costs in Germany to help pay for a 34 billion euro ($38 billion) investment in electric and autonomous cars and 50 billion euros for EV battery procurement.

If directors from the German state of Lower Saxony, which controls a 20% stake in the carmaker, side with labour leaders they can veto significant decisions by Volkswagen’s management.

Diess was appointed head of the VW brand in 2015 after defecting from BMW and then climbed to the position of group chief executive in April 2018.

His grip on the car and truck manufacturer seemed to have increased after German prosecutors dropped a market manipulation investigation against him last month.

However, he has been criticised after Volkswagen was forced to halt sales of its newest Golf because of software glitches at a time the company is preparing to mass produce VW’s ID.3 electric car.

In addition to forcing Volkswagen to embark on a radical electrification strategy in the wake of the carmaker’s diesel-cheating scandal, Diess appointed BMW manager Markus Duesmann as the head of Audi.

($1 = 0.8852 euros)

Reporting by Edward Taylor in Frankfurt and Jan Schwartz in Hamburg; additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach and Joern Poltz; Editing by Mark Bendeich, Maria Sheahan and David Clarke

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