Dends Herbert Diess’ career as head of the world’s largest car company had something wrong. The Austrian with his irrepressible personality rocked the headquarters of the Wolfsburg Volkswagen Group for seven years. He argued in the open forum until spades flew, with labor councils, boards of supervisors and fellow board members. Diess, 61, was nearly ejected at least four times. And battles were always fought in public, sometimes for weeks. The performances presented by Volkswagen were unparalleled on the floors of the German executive.
The ending that befell him now was not worth it at all. It was very different. Technically, cool and without any previous leaks, the Diess was cast last week. Earlier the board of management had needed less than an hour to decide on the matter. The press release of the eviction did not have a negative word to say about the ouster and no details. No war, no drama. Instead, there is talk of “generational change”. It is as if a management employee was scheduled to retire when they reach retirement age.
Of course it wasn’t. Ultimately, Diess lost the confidence of the Swabian-Austrian entrepreneurial dynasty of Porsches and Piëchs, who together hold 31 percent of the shares and most of the voting rights in Volkswagen.
Despite all the strife, the family clan has long remained loyal to its unpredictable and hard-working CEO. If it were up to the employee representatives, who are traditionally powerful at VW, and the state of Lower Saxony as minority shareholders, Diess would no longer be in office. But Germany’s most controversial car manager was not only a walking failure of the Volkswagen system, but also a very demanding driver. He realized early on that the cultural group had to reorganize itself in the era of electric drives and the digital network of the car in order not to be inferior.
Now the Porsches and Piëchs have new hope: Oliver Blume, 54, who was previously head of the Stuttgart carmaker Porsche, which belongs to the VW empire, will captain Wolfsburg in September. “Oliver Blume has enjoyed our open confidence for many years,” the two elders of the family, Wolfgang Porsche, 79, and Hans Michel Piëch, 80 said. For a manager at the VW Group, such words are praise. The choice of successor is not a surprise. The new man had long been sold as the head of the crown at Wolfsburg.