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VW board meets: Crunch time for CEO Winterkorn

Usually, board meetings are reasonably tame affairs. Yet Wednesday's meeting of Volkswagen's supervisory board's presidium, a mixture of executives and shareholders' representatives, is likely to have seismic consequences for the automaker and its embattled chief executive, Martin Winterkorn.

The world's second-largest carmaker is being engulfed by an emissions scandal which has wiped nearly 26 billion euros ($29 billion) off its market value this week. In this kind of situation, with 11 million cars potentially affected, jobs are put in jeopardy and even once-mighty companies can be permanently damaged.

On Wednesday, while the board was scheduled to meet, U.S. ratings agency Fitch announced that it had put the company on ratings watch negative.

The board will need to act fast to try and address the reputational fallout. CNBC looks at who to watch in Wednesday's meeting.

Martin Winterkorn

Martin Winterkorn
Getty Images
Martin Winterkorn

Rumors of the chief executive's demise on Tuesday proved to be premature, but there are still questions over how much longer he can hang on. The long-serving VW executive already survived one coup attempt by chairman Ferdinand Piech, and this could be exactly the opportunity some members of the board could grab to finally oust him.

He has become the public face of the scandal, with allegations that he ignored warning signs about the emissions in 2014. In a video on the carmaker's website yesterday, he admitted: "I do not have all the answers to the questions but we are working hard to find out exactly what happened."

Whether he will continue that work remains to be seen.


Ferdinand Piech

One of the most influential players in the global car industry, this scion of the Porsche family has already failed to engineer Winterkorn's departure earlier this year, which resulted in his own departure as chairman of the board.

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Nigel Treblin | Getty Images

Although he is no longer on the supervisory board, the architect of much of Volkswagen's success in recent years still controls a large chunk of the Porsche family's shareholding in Germany's national carmaker, and his presence will be felt at Wednesday's meeting via their representatives.

The Workers

Trade unions are still an important voice in Volkswagen, and Bernd Osterloh, their main representative, has written in a letter (as reported by German newspaper Bild) that they "will do everything possible in the supervisory board meetings this week to ensure the matter is cleared up quickly and that personnel consequences are drawn."

Government of Lower Saxony

The German state where Volkswagen was founded still has a substantial stake and two supervisory board seats. One of those members, Olaf Lies, the economics minister for Lower Saxony, has already gone public with his call for changes at Volkswagen. He may get this wish soon.

- By CNBC's Catherine Boyle