Will VW chief make his way back into DaimlerChrysler's employ?
11 December 2006

Speculation is mounting in Germany that Wolfgang Bernhard is preparing to leave the Volkswagen Group, where he currently heads up the Volkswagen brand, to return to his former employer, DaimlerChrysler. The news comes hot on the heels of last month’s board room coup that saw Volkswagen Group chairman Bernd Pischetsreider dumped from his post and replaced by Martin Winterkorn, the head of Audi. Many expected Bernhard to seek a quick departure from Wolfsburg with the arrival of Winterkorn; the two men are apparently no great fans of one another. However, appearances at the Beijing motor show in late November for the unveiling of the Neeza concept car and the Los Angeles motor show, where the wraps went up on Volkswagen’s upcoming Tiguan SUV, suggested a peace deal may have brokered. Nonetheless, Autocar sources say Bernhard is negotiating with the Volkswagen board to have certain clauses in his contract altered so as to allow him to rejoin DaimlerChrysler. Under his existing contract, he is prohibited from joining a rival car maker for a period of two years. With intimate knowledge of its future product plan, Volkswagen is naturally keen to ensure secrets do not fall into the hands of the competition. A much-rumoured returned to DaimlerChrysler could see Bernhard head up Chrysler, where he was chief executive officer underneath Dieter Zetsche up to 2004. Current Chrysler president, Tom La Sorda, has come under heavy criticism of late for allowing it to slip back into the red after heavy restructuring earlier this decade. In what is perhaps a sign of things to come, Chrysler’s marketing boss, Joe Eberhardt, has been shifted to Mercedes-Benz’s dealer network in the US, paving the way for future changes.

In other movements, Autocar understands Ulrich Brunke is on the verge of announcing he is to step down as head of the BMW’s M division. No reason is being given for the departure, although Brunke has long backed a plan to expand the M division line-up in much the same way that he did when he was boss of Mercedes-Benz’s AMG off-shoot – something key BMW board members have resolutely challenged over the years. In e-mail correspondence with the German car-maker, Autocar has been advised that no official comment is being made at this time. Greg Kable

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