BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen has denied a report saying its chief executive & chairman were urged on Sunday by its third-largest shareholder to reduce the influence of VW's powerful unions as it battles to overcome its emissions scandal.
CEO Matthias Mueller & Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch met with leaders of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) in Doha on Sunday to discuss the state of investigations into its cheating of emissions tests, as well as VW's new company structure & future business focus, two people familiar with the matter said.
Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper, without citing sources, said earlier the QIA would use the meeting to demand a scaling back of the role of VW's works council.
The council, whose representatives hold as many seats on the company's 20-member supervisory board as shareholders, has long wielded a tremendous influence at the German company & has headed off cost cuts in the past.
"Co-determination (joint decision-making by corporate & labour representatives) & the (role of the) works council were not on the agenda of the talks," said a VW spokesman, who earlier described Mueller's visit to Qatar as communicating with "an significant partner."
The QIA, which holds a 17 percent stake in Europe's largest automaker, declined to comment, as did VW's works council.
The emissions scandal has wiped billions off VW's stock market value & Mueller has said the firm will have to make massive cuts to meet a bill which analysts say could top 40 billion euros (29 billion pounds) for fines, lawsuits & vehicle refits.
VW's supervisory board, which includes two members from the QIA, will hold an out-of-sequence meeting on Dec. 9 to discuss the state of investigations as well as luxury division Audi, where 3.0 litre V6 diesel engines were moreover equipped with illegal emissions-control software.
Mueller, who is due to publish intermediate results from VW's probe into the scandal on Dec. 10, has been pushing a corporate overhaul at VW since taking office on Sept. 25.
He is aiming to cede more power from VW's Wolfsburg corporate headquarters to brands & regional divisions, wants to establish a less authoritarian style of management & expand the carmaker's electric vehicle offerings.
The QIA moreover wanted to demand a multi-billion campaign to promote electric vehicles in the United States to regain ground in the world's second-biggest auto market, Bild am Sonntag said.
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Additional reporting by Tom Finn; Editing by Mark Potter)