FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) chairman Ferdinand Piech could stay at the helm of Europe's largest carmaker beyond the term he was granted earlier this year, he told a German paper.
A decision of Piech to prolong his tenure would push back long-awaited succession planning. Analysts have been critical of Volkswagen for not bringing forward managers seen capable of leading the 12-brand car group.
"I have asked (CEO) Martin Winterkorn to launch the next (model of the Volkswagen hatchback) Golf. A new model of the Golf usually comes out every 5-7 years. At least that long I will cover Winterkorn's back as chairman," Piech told tabloid Bild am Sonntag.
The newest version of Volkswagen's flagship model - the Golf VII - went on sale on Saturday.
In April, shareholders voted 75-year old Piech to act as chairman for a third term, which runs until December 2016. Piech is already now the oldest-ever chairman of a listed German company.
The contract of Winterkorn - who last year earned more than any other manager among Germany's top 30 companies listed on the DAX index <0#.GDAX> - also runs until the end of 2016.
Of his 18 years at the helm of VW, Piech has served nine as chief executive officer.
Asked by the newspaper if he expects a negative impact on Volkswagen from sales incentive programs of other carmakers, Piech said "For us, it will not be bloody."
He added that he was, however, concerned about the impact of the euro zone crisis on Volkswagen.
"We are worried about regions south of the Alps and west of the river Rhine. You'll hardly notice five percent plus or minus in Germany, but will notice two thirds less in Spain", he told the paper.
Reporting by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle