Porsche and Piech families seek power in a calmer post-Diess Volkswagen

It should come as no surprise to people who have been following this saga for the last several years, but the Porsche and Piech families want to exert more control over their holdings of the Volkswagen group. Porsche SE owns most of the voting rights within the Volkswagen Group, and the Porsche and Piech families in turn own most of the voting rights behind Porsche SE, so really the families should already have a pretty solid say in with VAG does. The controlling shareholder families want to put the company on a shorter leash following the departure of group CEO Herbert Diess. “They want to keep a closer eye on the implementation of the strategic guidelines,” a person with knowledge of the families’ thinking told Reuters.

Diess helped the company to prepare for an electrified future, making major steps to develop global battery electric cars. Diess, however, ran into issues with worker representatives, and support from the families slowly began to evaporate. Key project failures (including delays in self same electric projects like the electric Porsche Macan) and worker discontent effectively signed his walking papers. The VW Supervisory Board—primarily made up of members of the Piech and Porsche families, Lower Saxony government officials, and labor leaders—voted to oust the CEO while he was on a trip to the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant. It seems those labor leaders were primarily concerned that Diess’ changes to the company would ultimately cost jobs, and their voices carried serious weight.

The families were allegedly responsible for the placement of Porsche CEO Oliver Blume at the head of Volkswagen Group. The clans see Blume as their path toward the long-awaited Porsche AG initial public offering, now that he has the combined power of office at Volkswgen Group and Porsche. Blume is also hoped to bring necessary stability to Volkswagen in a post-Diess era. If he can bring calm to the labor unrest currently bubbling up will be a major test for his tenure. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that VW AG needs to adapt to the market and push electrification (made necessary at least in part by VW’s image immediately following Dieselgate), so he’ll need to find a way to convince labor leaders that jobs won’t disappear in spite of the changes.

“The structure of the IPO primarily fulfils the families’ interest in further tightening their grip on Porsche, and they will not be dissuaded from this plan,” Hendrik Schmidt (corporate governance expert at DWS, which holds shares in both Volkswagen and Porsche SE) told Reuters.

Porsche joined Volkswagen Group in 2009 after a failed takeover attempt of Volkswagen Group. Since then the families behind Porsche have been looking for a way to re-exert their control over Porsche. Power is the aim, and power is what they’ll ultimately have.