Posted by: David Kiley on January 10, 2007
When reporters asked Porsche AG chairman Wendelin Wiedeking about the present and future of VW brand cief Wolfgang Bernhard, he literally just broke into an extended chuckle. No question that Bernhard is leaving VW now that Martin Winterkorn is chairman and Wiedeking is the most influential supervisory board member.
A source of mine says that Bernard will have a one year non-compete clause after leaving VW unless he can negotiate himself out of it. For that reason, says the source who has spoken with Bernhard, the executive is looking to pursue some opportunities outside the auto industry rather than just take a year off. I don’t know. He’s got the dough, and a family he loves. If I had the opportunity, I’d spend a helluva year with my family rather than go the private equity route or some such. Does anyone suppose he would look to tie up with a private equity group to buy Aston Martin? Would that violate a non-compete? I’m not sure.
Bernhard is a rock star in the auto industry. But I also think he may need to get into another big job to reprove himself. What do I mean? While he gets a lot of credit at Chrysler for guiding the 300 to market, as well as an interesting design like the Caliber, and the stow-and-go minivan to name three, he also had to have greenlighted the final design on the Chrysler Sebring. And I’m not sure there was a more openly derided design at this week’s North American International Auto Show than the Sebring, which launched a few months ago. He also championed the Jeep Commander and Compass, and neither one of those vehicles is resonating.