Is the VW power struggle Herbert Diess decided against Bernd Osterloh or is the change of leadership a victory without a winner?

Nobody really believes what the PR heralds of the Volkswagen group announce: that Volkswagen ex-boss Herbert Diess has given the top job as brand boss in order to get "more freedom for his tasks as group boss" and to "focus on the big one" Whole “to be able to concentrate. This misunderstands: Volkswagen as a brand is the big picture! Is it a wise decision to disempower Herbert Diess? In any case, this decision is the clear signal that VW cannot be ruled against the works council.

"If Diess doesn't make it, nobody will make it," a well-known VW manager told me a year ago, hoping that Herbert Diess would enforce his intentions where works council chief Osterloh has always announced resistance. Not even the strongest and most independent VW boss in office, Ferdinand Piëch, has managed it. However, Piëch nevertheless achieved most of his goals in a tricky way, always strategically involving the works council, if not to have been ensnared. The tactics often went quite far and did not stop at red-light favors.

In Wolfsburg there is talk of a “lame duck”

As loudly as it is communicated that the change of leadership at the top of the VW brand serves solely to concentrate on the essential tasks, the message is not a strengthening of Herbert Diess, who has previously acted as head of the group and brand. There is talk of a "lame duck", a "cold disempowerment" and "great regret" that Diess VW no longer leads directly as a brand.

The new management constellation is, however, contradictory in itself, because this remains the head of the entire group. He is therefore also entitled to issue instructions to his successor at the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, Ralf Brandstätter. For this is it "The aim is to focus more on the respective tasks at the top of the group and brand in the current transformation phase of the automotive industry," says a vague statement in a press release. Brandstätter, previously the “Chief Operating Officer” at Volkswagen, will be the sole owner of the car brand with the VW logo from July 1, 2020. "He has successfully led Volkswagen as COO in the past two years and helped shape the transformation at a crucial point," Diess praises his successor. Brandstätter, however, cannot count on a 100-day grace period because, as the COO responsible to date, he is involved in all of the brand's issues. Every insider knows that he is also responsible for the start-up problems with the Golf-8.

A Volkswagen insider says: "There is no alternative to the Diess route." But it obviously cannot end, as is now being shown. A manager who is at the forefront of the issues Software.org and Artemis works, reports horrified about the “Stone Age thinking of the management team” in the VW group and the “completely outdated structures in WOB”. And: "With a works council that wants to maintain the status quo in Wolfsburg, you will encounter massive criticism." The technological changes in the product landscape are without alternative. The time horizon was set by the EU, but the group was not prepared at all. “The path for Volkswagen is extremely risky. And Herbert Diess' predecessors simply did not draw the necessary conclusions. ”Obviously with regard to the works council.

“Nothing has changed culturally for the better”

“There is only toughness and consistency in enforcement. One can only hope that this is successful, ”says the manager familiar with the topic. It can now be questioned whether the new management structure still helps Diess to achieve his intentions. For works council chief Osterloh, the software problems with the Golf 8 are obviously a welcome occasion to criticize this. There is eager denial of wanting to finally save Diess, as the Handelsblatt wants to know. "Nothing has changed structurally and culturally for the better at Volkswagen," says our informant.

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