Volkswagen has plunged into a full-blown leadership crisis after Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn let it be known on Saturday he will fight for his job even though the carmaker's chairman has reportedly withdrawn confidence in the CEO.
Ferdinand Piech, who has spent almost 22 years at the helm of VW, nine as CEO, said he has "distanced" himself from Winterkorn, Der Spiegel reported on Friday, exposing unusual dissent between VW's two top leaders.
Piech's remark is viewed by analysts as undermining the CEO's prospects of renewing his contract, due to expire in December 2016 and to become chairman himself when Piech retires.
It comes as VW is seeking to cut billions of euros of costs to boost profitability at its troubled core division while struggling to forge a long-planned alliance of truck brands and to revive operations in the United States.
Winterkorn, who in his eight-year reign has overseen VW's transformation from a struggling German group saddled with high labour costs into one of the world's most successful automotive companies, will not run away from his job and feels emboldened by support from strong allies, two sources at Wolfsburg-based VW told Reuters on Saturday.
A spokesman for Volkswagen declined to comment on the report. Piech's office in Salzburg, Austria, didn't return calls seeking comment.