Nijaz Hastor began his career building Volkswagens in a factory in Slovenia. Last week, he brought Volkswagen to its knees when he refused to back down on a contract dispute between the automaker and his diverse parts company.
The exact nature of the dispute remains murky. But the image of Hastor is not so murky anymore -- he is the Bosnian businessman who has quietly created an auto parts empire with enough grit to push back Europe's biggest automaker customer.
Hastor, one of the richest men in Bosnia-Herzegovina, shut down his output of seat covers and iron transmission cases for Volkswagen rather than go along with the German giant's wishes.
Without those parts, VW was forced to interrupt production at six of its 10 German factories, making Golfs, Passats, engines, transmissions and chassis, idling nearly 28,000 Volkswagen workers and an uncounted number of workers at other supplier plants.
European media reported last week that Volkswagen had abruptly canceled a major new contract with Hastor's parts company, Prevent DEV, leaving Hastor, 65, out of pocket to the tune of $66 million.
Other European news reports claimed Hastor recoiled from what some suppliers claim is an overly aggressive campaign in progress at Volkswagen to cut supply chain costs -- an effort that some believe is motivated by the billions of dollars in fines and reparations VW faces from its global diesel emissions scandal.
Hastor made no official comment about his tiff with Volkswagen. He rarely appears in public, except for charity events and through his sponsorship of the Sarajevo Film Festival.
Prevent is a conglomeration of auto parts and other businesses. Two of his businesses -- seating supplier Car Trim and transmission parts producer ES Automobilguss, both based in Wolfsburg, Germany -- were directly responsible for the standoff with VW. The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted ES Automobilguss Chief Operating Officer Alexander Gerstung saying, "The way in which VW is treating its suppliers is in no way acceptable and can ruin any small company."
Cascade of criticism
By Tuesday, Aug. 23, Volkswagen and Prevent had negotiated through their disagreement and resumed normal business. Details of the settlement were undisclosed. Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that VW had agreed to pay $14.7 million of the disputed amount, according to its sources, and had agreed to continue buying Prevent parts for six years.