Volkswagen sees tensions amid leadership clash

Volkswagen factory Image copyright AP

Divisions have emerged in the leadership of German car giant Volkswagen after chairman Ferdinand Piech gave an interview criticising chief executive Martin Winterkorn.

Mr Piech told German news magazine Der Spiegel that he had "distanced" himself from Mr Winterkorn, who was widely tipped as the firm's next chairman.

Mr Piech's family and the Porsche family control 51% of VW between them.

Board member Wolfgang Porsche said Mr Piech had given his "personal opinion".

Mr Porsche, who is Mr Piech's cousin, said the chairman had not cleared his remarks with family members.

During his eight-year tenure as chief executive, Mr Winterkorn has overhauled VW and made it one of the world's most successful carmakers, industry analysts say.

Since Mr Piech's remarks were published on Friday, Mr Winterkorn has received the backing of Lower Saxony state, a minor shareholder in VW, as well as the support of the company's employee council, which holds half the seats on the firm's 20-strong supervisory board.

In 2014, VW was the world's second-biggest carmaker by sales, behind Toyota and ahead of GM.

Apart from Volkswagen, the group's brands include Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Bentley, Skoda and Seat.

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