Updated Nov 10, 2022, 4:53pm EST

Backlash after German politician who doesn’t own a car appointed to powerful seat on VW board

Sign up for Flagship, our daily newsletter that distills what’s happening in the world into a concise, insightful morning read.


Sign up for Semafor Flagship: The daily global news briefing you can trust. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

An association of German investors says it has grounds for a lawsuit after a Green party politician who doesn’t own a car was given a powerful board seat at Volkswagen.

Volkswagen logos at a dealership in Madrid.
REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo
Title icon

Know More

Julia Willie Hamburg, a Green party leader in the state of Lower Saxony and the government’s new education minister, was tapped for the appointment on Tuesday along with state premier Stephan Weil, according to a press release.

The state government has two seats on VW’s 20-person Supervisory Board, which is “responsible for monitoring the management and approving important corporate decisions,” the company’s website states.

Julia Willie Hamburg.
Wikimedia Commons/Foto AG Gymnasium Melle

VW is headquartered in the in northwest German state, which has a 20% stake in the company, has 20% of voting rights, and can veto decisions.


According to her website, Hamburg doesn’t own a car and prefers cycling. And she’s publicly criticized VW over its operations in China, specifically its plant in the region of Xinjiang, where Beijing has been accused of human rights violations against the mostly-Muslim Uyghur population.

German news outlet Der Spiegel reported that Hamburg’s appointment could have a significant impact on the automaker’s China strategy, though VW has denied any wrongdoing at its Xinjiang plant.

Backlash to the appointment was swift, with the head of DSW, Germany’s leading association for private investors, saying it is considering a lawsuit over the appointment, claiming Hamburg has a conflict of interest, NDR reported. The association leader mentioned her propensity for biking and the fact that she doesn’t have a car.

German conservative media also criticized the appointment, with tabloid newspaper Bild called Hamburg a “car hater.”