Protests and incidents disrupted the annual shareholders’ meeting of German carmaker Volkswagen at a Berlin convention center on Wednesday. Climate and human rights activists threw, for example, a cream pie at Wolfgang Porsche, a representative of the company’s owning family, who was celebrating his 80th birthday just that day, although the target was missed.
The activists blamed VW’s handling of the diesel emissions scandal, the human rights situation in China, and the continuation of the sale of ICE cars.
‘Planetary limits of car sales exceeded’
Several groups, including Letzte Generation and Scientist Rebellion, claimed responsibility for the actions against Europe’s largest carmaker. Initially, they tried to block access to the conference center and held a rally in front of the building to denounce the greenhouse gas emissions that Volkswagen contributes to. About a dozen climate activists had also glued themselves to the road surface, obstructing traffic.
“The science is clear: Volkswagen’s planned car sales are exceeding planetary limits,” read posters by a handful of white-clad protesters from Scientist Rebellion, a group of academics in some 30 countries.
A shirtless activist, her chest painted with slogans, also interrupted the speech of the CEO, Olivier Blume, who arrived in September and for whom it was thus the first AGM before she was led out of the room by security.
Forced labor of Uyghurs
In general, the activists denounced VW’s handling of the diesel emissions scandal, the group’s exploitation and destruction in the name of its shareholders’ dividends, and the continued sale of combustion-engine cars.
Volkswagen’s contributions to the forced labor of Uyghurs were also denounced. The automaker operates, via a joint venture, a factory in China’s western Xinjiang Uyghur province, where the Chinese government oppresses the Uyghur Muslim minority and forces them into forced labor.
Volkswagen has repeatedly denied involvement in these violations in the past. It also counters that there is no evidence of human rights violations at the plant and that the company is against forced labor worldwide.
Sales drop in China
As for the meeting itself, VW boss Oliver Blume spoke to shareholders about his 10-point plan to secure the carmaker’s position in the revolution of electro-mobility and EVs.
For shareholder representatives, Blume’s dual role as VW Group and Porsche boss is a particular cause of concern. Blume told the roughly 700 shareholders at the meeting that VW and Porsche had largely converging interests. Hence, conflicts of interest were not to be expected = and had not occurred so far during his tenure.
Some shareholders also criticized Volkswagen’s low valuation on the stock exchange despite its record margins and the drop in sales in China, where the group, competing with its local manufacturers, was losing market sales.
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