Volkswagen prepares for empire downsize

Interesting vibes on the grapevine today, as rumours emerged of an imminent consolidation of Volkswagen’s various parts businesses ahead of a potential asset sale to cover the dieselgate bills, with Ducati and Scania Trucks also mooted as possible sell-offs.

AutoNews.com reports that former Porsche CEO and now Volkswagen boss, Matthias Müller, outlined his plans for a strategic review of Volkswagen’s twelve vehicle brands and numerous side businesses with the VW Supervisory Board on Tuesday. The chief’s strategy is said to have met with approval and is being lined up for public release. No doubt the timing is crucial: this month’s delayed AGM is fast approaching and there has been little support for Volkswagen’s move to ratify the decisions of its management in the dieselgate crisis to date.

Shareholders don’t trust Volkswagen management

Three powerful investor groups in Germany, Brussels and London working on behalf of shareholders (apparently including the City of New York’s pension fund) are distinctly unimpressed with Volkswagen’s handling of dieselgate. The watchdogs are calling for the appointment of independent auditors to investigate the “entire complex surrounding the manipulated software for Volkswagen diesel cars”, in place of VW’s chosen agents. As the Porsche family owns 52% of VW shares and voting rights, this is unlikely to be voted through, in which case the groups are reserving the right to push for a court to appoint a special audit.

The company needs some shareholder-comforting evidence of how it is taking steps to increase business focus and reduce corporate bloating by June 22nd, and Müller is keen to provide it. Consolidation of the myriad VW-brand parts units into one company employing 70,000 people at more than twenty locations worldwide may emerge as the top priority to bring down costs and provide a cost-effective business with a guaranteed income which could be split off for sale, in much the same way as the GM and Ford component wings were split off in the Detroit crisis.

Suspects for Volkswagen Downsize

Volkswagen may then look at its empire for straightforward rationalisation: cutting off anything that doesn’t fit with its ambition targeting global leadership in connected electric cars. The main automotive group consists of twelve different marques from seven European countries: Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Audi, SEAT, ŠKODA, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ducati, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania and MAN.

Behind those brands lies a wider group portfolio, including manufacturing large-bore diesel engines for marine and stationary applications (turnkey power plants), turbochargers, turbomachinery (steam and gas turbines), compressors and chemical reactors. VAG also produces vehicle transmissions, wind turbine gear units, slide bearings and couplings, as well as testing systems for the mobility sector.

Volkswagen’s powerful financial services unit offers a wide range of products, including dealer and customer financing, leasing, banking and insurance, and fleet management. Any one or more of these portfolio organisations could well be sliced off by the ex-Stuttgart surgeon general and allowed to swim free in the great global goldfish bowl.

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