WOLFSBURG -- Volkswagen Group will strengthen it cooperation with Qatar, the automaker's third-largest shareholder, CEO Matthias Mueller said, as Europe's biggest carmaker struggles to overcome its emissions-cheating scandal and reposition its business.
"In future there will be closer cooperation in different areas," Mueller told Reuters TV after the carmaker's earnings press conference on Thursday.
The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) holds a 17 percent stake in Volkswagen and two seats on its supervisory board. Porsche SE and Lower Saxony are VW's largest shareholders with 52 percent and 20 percent stakes, respectively.
"I very much welcome the role of Qatar," Mueller said, adding VW's top management was in "very constructive" talks with the QIA.
Since the emissions scandal broke last September, there have been reports in the German media saying the QIA had urged VW's top management to scale back the role of labor leaders who have balked at efforts by management to increase cost savings.
"I have no knowledge of this," Mueller said when asked whether he knew of plans to increase the supervisory board's six-member steering committee to grant a seat to QIA.
German news agency DPA reported earlier this month that Qatar wanted a seat on the steering committee.
Bloomberg reported Thursday that among the possibilities being discussed is enlarging the so-called presidium of the supervisory board -- which makes up the inner circle of the most senior steering committee at the company -- to eight people from six and granting the Qatar representative a role for the first time. Bloomberg cited sources, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.
A spokesman for Volkswagen declined to comment on the deliberations. A final decision hasn't been made yet as details of a possible agreement still need to be discussed, according to the people.
Qatar's representatives on the supervisory board are Akbar al Baker, the CEO of national carrier Qatar Airways, and Hussain Al Abdulla, a board member at the Qatar Investment Authority. A spokesman for Qatar declined to comment.
Supervisory boards in Germany are split evenly between major stakeholders and other company representatives on the one side and labor representatives on the other. In Volkswagen's case, the board consists of 20 members, with labor playing a powerful role steering strategy, while Lower Saxony typically sides with the labor side on key decisions. Both Qatar and Lower Saxony have two seats on the supervisory board. But Qatar has no seat on the presidium, which comprises the top officials from the Porsche and Piech owner families, Lower Saxony and VW's unions.
Al Baker has been openly critical of labor unions, ridiculing rival airlines in Europe for having to put up with strikes and other disputes that disrupt their operations. He's declined to discuss his views in public on Volkswagen, where he gained a board seat last year after the annual general meeting.
Bloomberg contributed to this report