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Ferdinand Piëch, the chairman of Volkswagen, swatted away investor criticism of corporate governance practices at the carmaker by securing his wife’s election to the supervisory board and acquiring his favourite motorcycle producer for good measure.
VW shareholders on Thursday elected Ursula Piëch, a former kindergarten teacher who married the grandson of the VW Beetle creator in 1984, to the supervisory board of Europe’s biggest carmaker by sales.
Mr Piëch celebrated his 75th birthday on Tuesday but was nevertheless reelected for another five years as chairman. The patriarch is showing no sign of taking his foot off the accelerator as VW bids to permanently surpass General Motors and Toyota as the worlds’ biggest carmaker by sales.
His birthday present arrived on Wednesday when VW’s Audi brand announced the acquisition of Ducati, a maker of premium motorcycles loved by Mr Piëch but which analysts described as a trophy that would serve little strategic purpose. VW’s stable of brands, which already stretches from Skoda to Bugatti, will thus increase to 12 once Porsche, the sports car maker, has been fully integrated.
Audi also announced this week that it would invest in a new plant in Mexico that will begin production in 2016.
On Monday Mr Piëch will cap a busy few days by escorting Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, as they tour the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. VW said this week it plans a new plant in western China, a country that accounts for a big chunk of its profits.