Looks like Wolfgang Bernhard may have taken the appointment of Martin Winterkorn as future Volkswagen AG CEO personally. Reports are swirling that Bernhard is likely to step down soon. Newspapers are reporting today that VW has asked for a commitment from Bernhard by Friday. German business newspaper Handelsblatt said Bernhard had threatened as early as May to resign if Winterkorn became CEO.

This would be a pretty big loss for Volkswagen, as Bernhard is widely regarded as a savior for VW because of his efforts to cut costs in Germany. Some put Bernhard's contribution to Volkswagen's bottom line as high as $9 billion (7 billion euros) by 2008. That has come mainly as a result of restructured benefits and extended working hours for VW's 100,000 workers at its plants in western Germany.

This comes on the heels of last week's shakeup that saw the group's chief executive Bernd Pischetsrieder stepping down after a power struggle with VW chairman Ferdinand Piech. That resulted in the nomination of Audi CEO Martin Winterkorn as the new head of VW. Bernd has since been reassigned to the trucking arm of VAG.

[Sources: Reuters and Automotive News, sub req]

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