VW claims General Motors is conducting economic war: German car chief refuses to rule out conspiracy

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The Independent Online
VOLKSWAGEN went on the counter-offensive yesterday, accusing General Motors of resorting to dirty tricks in its determination to 'finish off' its German rival.

It claimed GM was conducting an international economic war against VW, behind the pretext of allegations that Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, VW's number two who left the American company in March, had engaged in industrial espionage.

In an interview with Stern magazine, Ferdinand Piech, VW's chairman, said: 'This is a mud-slinging battle. When we are attacked with mud, then we have to defend ourselves appropriately.'

Mr Piech said he could not exclude the possibility of a conspiracy by GM. Referring to secret GM documents found in a Wiesbaden flat occupied by two former employees of GM's European subsidiary, Opel, who followed Mr Lopez to VW, Mr Piech said the material 'was possibly for a time in the hands of our opponent and then taken to the police'.

He also said he had ordered a thorough check of VW's computer programs to make sure that 'nothing had been slipped into them'.

Mr Piech defiantly linked his future to that of Mr Lopez, whom he called the 'world's greatest rationaliser'. If his production chief had to go because of industrial espionage - an outcome that Mr Piech ruled out - then this would have 'disastrous consequences for me'. By destroying the Piech-Lopez team, GM would have attained its objective, he said. 'They would have won the war.'

Deutsche Bank reported net profits of DM1.05bn ( pounds 417m) in the first six months of 1993, 14.3 per cent better than half of total 1992 profits. Deutsche's operating profits, which included for the first time the cost of risk provisions, rose 12.6 per cent to DM2.56bn from an adjusted DM2.27bn a year ago.

Yesterday's interim results from Deutsche, Germany's biggest bank, marked an important step in the cautious process of making reporting practices more transparent. This would bring Germany's banks into line with new European Community regulations calling on banks to disclose data such as the net cost of risk provisions and trading profits. Risk provisions amounted to DM1.4bn, 45 per cent up on a year earlier.