It's the end of an era at Volkswagen following the resignation of chairman Ferdinand Piech, who's been at the helm for over two decades. What next for Volkswagen? Kirsty Basset reports.
The end of an era for Europe's largest automaker, Volkswagen. After more than two decades at the helm, Ferdinand Piech, grandson of the inventor of the Volkswagen Beetle - is out. He was reportedly caught plotting to oust CEO Martin Winterkorn - and given the choice of resigning or being booted out by the board. He chose to resign. Baader Bank's Robert Halver. (SOUNDBITE) (German) CAPITAL MARKET ANALYST FROM BAADER BANK, ROBERT HALVER, SAYING (ON VW): "That's what is called a bombshell, when the great patriarch (Ferdinand) Piech resigns, a man with gasoline in his blood. ..What will come next? I believe that for now, (Martin) Winterkorn, the chief executive, is firmly anchored within the company and I hope that they will now unify to pursue their goal of becoming the world's largest automaker." It's a goal that has so far proved elusive - as the company struggles in markets like the U.S. and Brazil, and has lower profit margins than larger rivals GM and Toyota. Reuters BreakingViews columnist Olaf Storbeck says Piech nonetheless leaves an impressive legacy. (SOUNDBITE)(ENGLISH) REUTERS BREAKING VIEWS COLUMNIST OLAF STORBECK SAYING: "He really was the overarching strongman at Volkswagen for the last 22 years and really transformed the company from a loss making company into a global powerhouse in carmaking." But his departure could be good news for VW investors. With the two week boardroom battle over, shares surged 5 per cent on hopes the company will be able to boost profitability. (SOUNDBITE)(ENGLISH) REUTERS BREAKING VIEWS COLUMNIST OLAF STORBECK SAYING: "The probability of vanity projects, empire building which was what Pieche was known for, is less likely in the future." It's not yet clear who will replace him. Possibly Winterkorn - a scenario Volkswagen insiders say Piech wanted to prevent at all costs. Piech's cousin, Wolfgang Porsche, is another name in the mix. Whoever takes the wheel will need to steer the company through a 5 billion euro cost cutting program to stem declining profitability. But unless he sells out, Piech may still continue to wield influence over the company. He does afterall hold a 13.2 per cent stake in the company worth 1.7 billion euros.