Martin Winterkorn and Ferdinand PiechFerdinand Piech has abruptly resigned as chairman of the Volkswagen Group after openly criticising his CEO Martin Winterkorn.

In a Volkswagen Group statement, it was announced that “Professor Dr. Ferdinand K. Piëch has resigned with immediate effect from his position as Chairman of the Supervisory Board and from all his mandates as a Supervisory Board member within the Volkswagen Group”.

His wife Ursula has also resigned.

The executive committee of the supervisory board of Volkswagen Group – which, as per German business practice, oversees the main management board – today met to discuss what it described as “the situation”.

Its conclusion? “The members of the Executive Committee have unanimously determined that in view of the background of the last weeks the mutual trust necessary ‎for successful cooperation no longer exists.”

Deputy chairman Berthold Huber will temporarily assume Piech’s chairmanship.

Piech’s Porsche roots

Piech is the son of Louise, the daughter of Ferdinand Porsche. A brilliant engineer, he joined Porsche after studying mechanical engineering and, after designing a five-cylinder engine for Mercedes-Benz in the interim, moved to Audi and pushed through models such as the 80, 100 and Ur Quattro.

He succeeded Carl Hahn as chairman of Volkswagen AG, turning around the company and its constituent brands. Audi, for example, developed from a German curio into one of the world’s largest premium car brands under his leadership.

Piech also ‘engineered out’ executives that he deemed failures: Berndt Pischetsreider of Volkswagen and Wendelin Wiedeking of Porsche were all hugely successful industry leaders who nevertheless fell under Piech’s watch.

In a statement, Porsche holding company Porsche SE said: “We have full confidence in the board of management of Volkswagen Group and we deeply regret the developments of the last few days.

“We thank Ferdinand Piëch for his decades of extraordinary and highly successful service to the Volkswagen Group. Our great loyalty to the Volkswagen Group and its 600,000 employees remains unchanged and we assume our responsibility as a principal shareholder.”