Volkswagen AG appoints Bernd Pischetsrieder as chairman of the company's management board effective April 17, 2002. The move ends months of speculation around the succession of longtime VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech, who took over the German automaker in 1993.

During a press briefing at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, Mr. Piech congratulated Mr. Pischetsrieder on his appointment saying: “He is the ideal successor and a customer-oriented car freak.”

Mr. Pischetsrieder has been a member of Volkswagen's board of management since 1999, responsible for operations at VW's SEAT brand. Before joining VW, Mr. Pischetsrieder was ousted from the helm of BMW AG for failing to turn around the company's Rover division.

While yielding control over VW's day-to-day operations, Mr. Piech will be nominated to join VW's supervisory board at the next annual shareholders' meeting next April 16. Known as the European auto industry's bad boy, Mr. Piech helped transform VW into one of the most efficient global auto manufacturers.

Mr. Pischetsrieder has bold plans for VW's future. In a meeting with analysts in August, he said he would restructure VW into two groups consisting of “conservative” brands including Bentley, Skoda and VW, and “aggressive” brands including Audi, SEAT, Bugatti and Lamborghini.