Strange things have been happening - in public, that is - at Volkswagen over the past few weeks, kicked off when VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch reportedly said he didn't want Group CEO Martin Winterkorn to be the next company chairman, and that he was keeping Winterkorn "at a distance." Winterkorn's ascension was widely believed to be a fait accompli. We were really just waiting for office furniture and desk plaques to be moved around.

That led to a meeting of the six-member supervisory board's leadership committee in Piëch's office in Salzburg, Austria, not at Group HQ in Wolfsburg, Germany, where the five other members of the committee came out in support of Winterkorn. They also suggested they might extend his contract when it ends in 2016, and then gave Piëch an ultimatum to agree to public support of the CEO or they would demand Piëch's resignation. At the same time, the company's labor reps and the German state of Lower Saxony issued statements supporting Winterkorn.

It's said that the chairman has a number of gripes with the CEO, prime among them being the state of the company's US business for the core Volkswagen brand. Market share has dropped to two percent in the United States and Winterkorn admitted that his team hasn't been properly engaged with our market.

Years of effort put into a budget car haven't resulted in much except the company saying it finally knew how to do one, and that was a year ago. It's losing share in Brazil, overall profit margins are down, BMW is taking possession of the green-car credentials among German brands, and it's said that Piëch doesn't believe Winterkorn has the vision to do what's necessary. Having agreed to play along and now in "diplomacy phase," some say a little light has gone out of Piëch's star inside the company, while others wonder if this battle is truly over.

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