At VW you are shocked by a mole in your own ranks. Savory details about the permanent feud with a supplier come to light. Who wants to knock the company or its managers into the pan?
A spy affair causes unrest at the world’s largest car maker Volkswagen. Apparently systematically and over a longer period of time, a stranger recorded the conversations of an internal working group. Details have now been made public. The online business magazine “Business Insider” reports almost 50 hours of audio recordings from 2017 and 2018 and published extracts at the weekend.
The task force had a delicate task. Volkswagen has been arguing with the Prevent supplier group for years – in 2016 it even went so far that the belts in Wolfsburg and other factories stood still for days because seat covers and gearbox housings no longer came from Prevent subsidiaries.
In 2018, VW wanted to put an end to the hauntings and cut ties to the companies belonging to the Bosnian Hastor family. But the anger keeps the Wolfsburgers on their toes. And not just because of the numerous lawsuits that the two arguments are still fighting.
Dealing with disputed suppliers has become public
Until the relationship was terminated, the working group called “Project 1” dealt with how VW should deal with the disputed supplier. According to official information, the VW internal team had the task of “averting further damage to the company, its customers, employees and suppliers. There were open discussions about all possible solutions, but many were rejected.” It was not a decision-making body.
Responsible for the team were the then group purchasing manager Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz and the procurement director of the Volkswagen brand, Ralf Brandstätter. Brandstätter has now become CEO of the core brand VW passenger cars.
Ultimately, Prevent was “phased out” as a supplier, as the company jargon states. In other words: Prevent no longer received any new orders, the contractual relationship was terminated.
VW: Case will be investigated
The big search is now underway at Volkswagen: Who secretly recorded the conversations for what reasons? If internal and confidential meetings were documented and “such information is passed on to the public without authorization, we are deeply shocked. The case will of course be investigated,” it said on Sunday from Wolfsburg. A Prevent spokesman said the company had no knowledge of the recordings.
According to the information in the team, there was also debate about how the Hastor family could prevent the headrest and center console manufacturer Grammer from being taken over. There were discussions with BMW and Daimler as well as financial investors, “Business Insider” quotes statements from the recordings. Volkswagen denies that there was a concerted campaign with other car manufacturers in the matter of Prevent.
From a legal point of view, such an arrangement would have been rather delicate because it could have undermined free competition. The Hastors’ takeover efforts ultimately failed due to resistance from the Grammer management.
Numerous cases are still on trial
The background of the spy incident at VW could be the many open legal proceedings that the group and Prevent are fighting in court. Prevent has filed a lawsuit in the United States and is seeking $ 750 million in damages for allegedly putting pressure on suppliers to reject Hastors’ takeovers.
For its part, VW wants to claim the damage from the delivery freeze in 2016 and put the figure at more than 100 million euros. According to Prevent, around ten proceedings are currently pending before German courts alone. Prevent is also arguing with Daimler and wants compensation from the Swabians – here too there are no more supply relationships.
The reason for spying remained unclear at first. The group audit in Wolfsburg must now check. It will probably be difficult to find evidence of possible wrongdoing after several years.