A big change at Volkswagen

Volkswagen's chief executive Bernd Pischetsrieder is to leave Europe's biggest carmaker at the end of this year. He will be replaced by Audi's chief executive Martin Winterkorn. The news is a big surprise as Pischetsreider had a contract extending to 2012. Winterkorn is a protege of VW chairman Ferdinand Piech, who has been at odds with Pischetsrieder for some years. No reason for the change has been given. The board of the company will meet later this month to confirm Winterkorn's appointment.

The consequences of the move are likely to be many and varied and it will be interesting to see how the company's attitude towards motorsport changes - if at all - as a result of the move. At the moment VW is very active in different kinds of motorsport with the Audi brand in sports cars and touring cars, VW in rally raids, Seat in the World Touring Car Championship and Skoda in rallying. The Lamborghini and Bugatti brands are not currently employed in the sport.

There are also questions about whether or not this will have any effect on Porsche's influence in the running of VW as Porsche owns 21.2% of the company, has an option to buy another 3.9% and could increase that to 29.9%. If Porsche goes beyond that it would have to make a takeover bid for VW. Interestingly VW owns 13% of its own common shares but the situation is confused by restrictions on the number of votings shares that are held by a single investor.

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