Germany’s Federal Police raided Volkswagen’s maximum security R&D dept, and carried away computers, while the VW’s finance dept is running map exercises involving the sale of assets, even to China, if necessary, Volkswagen’s hallway radio says in Wolfsburg.
According to VW’s Flurfunk (hallway radio) – the company’s proprietary and highly developed rumor mill – agents of Germany’s Federal Police (Bundeskriminalamt BKA) yesterday raided Volkswagen’s R&D department, and trucked away computers, along with other evidence.
Volkswagen says the Flurfunk is wrong, and there was no raid. The BKA refers to the prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig. The prosecutor won’t comment. Contacts in Germany say that VW is battening the hatches.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen’s Finance Dept. is in high gear, preparing for a possible massive exodus of people, perhaps even of parts of Volkswagen.
According to many media reports, Audi’s R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg, his successor at Volkswagen Heinz-Jakob Neusser, and Porsche’s R&D chief Wolfgang Hatz were “sent on vacation.” The trio is suspected to have been at the center of the diesel shenanigans since way back in 2005/2006. In Germany, it is not easy to fire a manager, except under the most egregious circumstances. Instead, they are “beurlaubt” (literally “vacationed” – furloughed), fitted with a golden parachute, and asked to jump.
This may only be the precursor to a mass exodus at VW. According to the hallway radio, VW’s Finance Dept. is busy with spreadsheets planning the financial impact of a large number of “Auflösungsverträge” (dissolution contracts) with swaths of middle managers. Also being discussed, says the hallway radio, is an extension of “Altersteilzeit” (early retirement) that allows managers in their late 50s prime to leave with a juicy and tax-optimized severance package. This will be open to all managers, and it’s usually the good ones who leave with a chunk of money to start another late career, while the lousy ones cling to their jobs.
As a sign that nothing is sacred at Volkswagen, a sale of corporate assets also entered the spreadsheets. This to prepare for a higher financial impact that currently planned. A sale of assets to the Chinese is being discussed, says the hallway radio. The Chinese are pretty much the only ones who are buying these days, and even their interest waned in the past months.
“Things are looking pretty grim at the moment,” said a highly placed manager at Volkswagen to Dailykanban.
In a situation like this, companies usually curtail non-essential marketing expenses, which ratchets down their profile, and saves money at the same time. Reuters reported last week that the “hundreds of millions of euros invested in German football annually” could be under serious review at VW. In motorsports, insiders fear a withdrawal of Volkswagen Group companies from the World Rally Championship WRC, and the World Endurance Championship WEC. WEC is firmly in the hands of the world’s largest automakers Volkswagen and Toyota. Porsche and Audi currently are on top of the WEC standings, with Toyota in 3rd place. If Porsche and Audi would leave WEC, Toyota would soon follow, the guessing goes. “Akio doesn’t want to race against himself” said a Toyota insider.
P.S.: Der Spiegel apparently also has the hallway radio frequencies, and reports that Volkswagen sits on $37 billion in cash and cash equivalents. Suzuki and Leaseplan most likely added another $3 billion. If all fails, says Der Spiegel, Volkswagen could sell Bentley, Bugatti, and the heavy trucks, and raise another $40 billion. Any talk of a Volkswagen BK seems to be premature.
Disclaimer: No responsibility is taken for the correctness of this information. Hallway radio reports reflect the current buzz of Volkswagen’s internal rumor mill, and as such the reports are not always correct. However, the radio has a very high batting average. For instance, the radio said early last week that Hackenberg and Neusser are “living dangerously.” The hallway radio reported months ago that Volkswagen sales chief Christian Klingler would leave his job. The hallway radio thought in early September Klingler would run Porsche when Müller takes over at Volkswagen. The radio was right on Müller, wrong on Klingler. Klingler has left the company, and it is better that way.