Lost competition in China, fired directors and grumbling shareholders. It bubbles within the German automotive group Volkswagen. Activists also showed up at the shareholders’ meeting.
It’s restless at Germany’s Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker. This became clear once again at the shareholders’ meeting in Wolfsburg on Wednesday morning. Activists disrupted the most important meeting of the year for the German auto group several times.
On his eightieth birthday, the main shareholder and co-owner Wolfgang Porsche – who has already been condemned in Germany for estrangement from his demented wife – was presented with a chocolate cake. The cake missed the grandson of the founder of the car brand of the same name by a hair.
A large demonstration
CEO Oliver Blume’s opening speech was then interrupted by massive protests from human rights activists. ‘End forced Uyghur labor at VW’, read a banner as two protesters were taken away by seven security guards. Outside, other protesters spoke for the same reason.
However, the protests seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Earlier this year, Volkswagen announced that it will continue production in Ürümqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang province, where 20,000 vehicles roll off the assembly line each year. In recent years, the company has emphasized that there is no forced labor of Uyghur workers by the Chinese partner. Human rights organizations think otherwise.
At the same time, the protests are not only about the poor working conditions of Uyghurs in China. German climate activists believe the transition to electric driving is moving too slowly. But the influence of German cars is great, as shown recently by the European decision to allow combustion engines on oil to be built after 2035.
The rise of Volkswagen. In this way, the group gets time to complete the transition to electronic vehicles. The race to drive an electric car is well underway; in China, Volkswagen is now overtaken by the Chinese BYD. A big loss for the Germans, as most of the customers are in Asia. Last year, Volkswagen lost 15 percent of the market due to the competition that emerged in China.
Share in half
The concern is reflected in part in the fall in stock prices. Compared to April 2021, Volkswagen’s stock has halved. Investors also have other concerns. In the Carad subsidiary, the entire top list jumped this week. The struggling software company, founded by Blume’s predecessor Herbert Diess, turned into an expensive project riddled with mistakes.
Finally, shareholders remain dubious about the resolution of the diesel scandal, the massive undermining of emissions standards for dirty cars that came to light in 2015. Rupert Stadler, the former CEO of Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, faces prison jail Although Stadler seems to be able to get away with paying 1.1 million euros.
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