SPIEGEL: Mr. Winterkorn, have you succumbed to megalomania?
Winterkorn: What makes you say that?
SPIEGEL: The VW Group plans to almost double its sales, to 10 million vehicles. You hope to replace Toyota as the world's largest automaker. You are building new plants in China, the United States and India. You already have eight car brands, including Porsche, as well as three truck brands and a new stake in Suzuki.
Winterkorn: It's true, we have set ourselves some very ambitious goals for the period between now and 2018, but they're certainly not megalomaniacal. First, we want to be the most attractive employer in the industry. Second, we want to achieve the highest degree of customer satisfaction and, third, a pre-tax return on sales of more than 8 percent. Once we have achieved these three goals, the fourth goal -- that of becoming the world's largest automaker -- will happen on its own.
SPIEGEL: Certainly not entirely on its own.
Winterkorn: Of course not. But we're not just building new plants. We also intend to expand our existing capacities -- in Russia, for example. We want to integrate Porsche and continue to develop our partnership with Suzuki. None of these things happen in a vacuum. Our program requires maximum concentration. We are aware of how ambitious our goals are.
SPIEGEL: Corporations that have also been or wanted to be No. 1 in the world have failed spectacularly. General Motors only managed to survive after being bailed out by the American government. DaimlerChrysler lost billions with its global corporation. Toyota grew too quickly and collapsed. Aren't you deterred by these examples?
Winterkorn: Not at all, because the way we operate distinguishes from General Motors, for example. GM was managed very much on the basis of the financial goals that were set for the individual brands. Of course, our brands also have to satisfy profitability objectives. But our leadership position is based on technology. In our case, senior executives drive cars made by all of our brands, in summer and in winter, sometimes in Africa and sometimes in Scandinavia. It helps us figure out where there are still problems. I myself do spot checks and have vehicles that are ready to be shipped pulled out and inspected. I meet with dealers. This approach allows you to get a completely different sense of what's happening in the company than by simply reading the files.
SPIEGEL: Can the CEO even get involved in such details?
Winterkorn: He has to. It takes a lot of effort, but it's the only way to run such a complex group of companies -- and to do so successfully. There aren't many carmakers that remained profitable during the financial crisis and are now experiencing strong sales and profit growth.
SPIEGEL: We have the impression that the rosy figures conceal many risks. The greatest of those risks, for the VW Group, is certainly the acquisition of Porsche for a total of 12 billion ($16 billion).
Winterkorn: More than anything else, I see the integration of Porsche as a great opportunity. We're not exactly buying a pig in a poke. We know what we're getting: an iconic sports car brand with a one-of-a-kind image worldwide, and an extremely successful and profitable dealer organization, Porsche Holding in Salzburg.
SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, two representatives of the capital side on the VW supervisory board voted against the Porsche takeover. This is unheard of for a company listed on the DAX. Why couldn't you convince those two board members?
Winterkorn: I don't know. The rational issues were all resolved, and the board members' questions had all been clearly answered.
SPIEGEL: Perhaps they feel that the Porsche takeover creates great risks for VW. Porsche faces lawsuits claiming damages in the billions, because investors feel conned by its market maneuver. How great of a threat does this pose for VW?
Winterkorn: I see no risk whatsoever to the Volkswagen Group, because the claims are directed against Porsche Automobil Holding SE. Even if a court were to recognize claims for damages, which I absolutely don't think will be the case, VW would not be affected. That's because we own a share of the operating business, namely 49.9 percent of Porsche AG.
SPIEGEL: Porsche and VW managers were sharply at odds during the takeover battle. Now they're expected to work together in harmony. How is that supposed to work?
Winterkorn: I told our senior executives: We will not behave in Stuttgart the way a few Porsche people did at our company in the past. We want to cooperate and we will. It's already working very well. Everything else is history. And some of the details already suggest to me that we're getting off to a good start. We had excellent talks with the Porsche executives at the most recent top management meeting. It was a long evening.
SPIEGEL: Porsche executives stayed at the bar until the early morning hours. They were probably drinking to drown out their frustrations. After all, almost the entire Porsche executive board was replaced.
Winterkorn: The reasons for that varied widely. CEO Wendelin Wiedeking and CFO Holger Härter left, but there's also another side to the story. Wiedeking's successor, Michael Macht, rose through the ranks to become a member of the VW Group board of directors. He did excellent work previously as head of production and chairman of the management board at Porsche. Porsche is No. 1 in the quality rankings in the United States ...
SPIEGEL: ... while Volkswagen and Audi are trailing far behind ...
Winterkorn: Yes, and I'm also very upset about that. This was one of the reasons we brought in Mr. Macht as head of production for the VW Group. We want him to bring the same successes he achieved at Porsche to Volkswagen and Audi. We are in the process of building a new plant in the United States, which is where we intend to go on the offensive. Quality is at the top of our agenda there.
---Quote (Originally by PaulAllen)--- Guess what that means? Plus the Chinese need the bulk of that for themselves. Environmentalists prevented the mining of natural resources here and now they say we must have renewable energy [...] more...
Guess what that means? Plus the Chinese need the bulk of that for themselves. Environmentalists prevented the mining of natural resources here and now they say we must have renewable energy standards that require those materials [...] more...
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