Chairman Piech's grip on VW weakened by row with CEO
* VW board members were ready to force out Piech - source
* Big shareholder Porsche says eager to calm situation
* CEO Winterkorn cancels trip to Shanghai auto show
By Andreas Cremer and Jan Schwartz
BERLIN/HAMBURG, April 19 (Reuters) - Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech's iron grip on the German carmaker has been severely weakened following a dramatic confrontation with senior board members last week that nearly resulted in a push to oust him, sources told Reuters.
Piech, patriarch of the family that founded Volkswagen and a dominant figure at the automaker for more than two decades, triggered a leadership crisis at the Wolfsburg-based firm by criticising Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn in a magazine article earlier this month.
After an emergency meeting in Salzburg last Thursday to resolve the row, a group of six senior board members, including Piech, gave their full backing to Winterkorn and agreed to propose an extension of his contract beyond 2016.
But sources briefed on the meeting said on Sunday that the vote of confidence in Winterkorn came only after a full-blown confrontation between Piech and the other five board members.
Piech's office in Salzburg and VW declined to comment. Continuación...