Volkswagen patriarch Piech draws criticism over reported remark raising questions about CEO

Volkswagen patriarch and board chairman Ferdinand Piech is drawing criticism over a reported remark that raised questions over the future of the CEO of Europe's biggest automaker, Martin Winterkorn.

Piech, a key company powerbroker, was quoted by Der Spiegel magazine Friday as saying he was "at a distance from Winterkorn," who has been widely considered a likely successor as supervisory board chief. That prompted speculation about his position.

The head of Volkswagen's influential employee council backed Winterkorn. The governor of Lower Saxony state, a minority shareholder, criticized the public discussion about the company's leadership.

The Piech and Porsche families together control a majority in Volkswagen. Board member Wolfgang Porsche told news agency dpa in a statement Sunday that Piech's comment represents "his private opinion" and wasn't cleared with his family.