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Volkswagen AG’s dramatic move to oust its combative chief executive officer was set in motion a week ago, when his backing from the billionaire Porsche and Piech family began to crumble.

Unwavering support from the reclusive clan that majority-owns VW had helped Herbert Diess survive frequent clashes with powerful worker representatives. But as key project failures combined with worker discontent, the family concluded he had to go.

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