The former Foreign Minister and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel has commented on media reports, according to which he moves to the head of the Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). "I can deny that there have been any formal discussions with me about it," he told TIME. "They did not exist."

Gabriel was amazed by the debate. He was not involved in it: "I have not brought into the game and have not been officially addressed by the VDA," said Gabriel. "I am a bit surprised, but I am also far enough away in the USA and look at it with great composure." The conversation was conducted in Boston.

At the weekend, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS), the Bild am Sonntag (BamS) as well as the Tagesspiegel and the Manager Magazin reported that Gabriel - next to the former Minister of State at the Chancellery, Hildegard Müller (CDU) - as a promising candidate for the post of the VDA President. The former SPD leader was the preferred candidate of both the auto companies and the suppliers and family businesses, wrote the BamS . "If no unbridgeable differences with Gabriel occur, he will be the new president." Gabriel has already signaled to take over the post.

The FAS reported that the CDU politician Müller has good chances to become the top car lover. That the first time a woman would speak for the German auto industry, the VDA could sell as a sign of departure, the newspaper quoted a car manager. For the former Minister of State, she also spoke about her good contacts in the Union and her experience in the energy industry. Müller was last on the board of the energy company Innogy.

Bernhard Mattes stops at the end of the year

Gabriel, in turn, is considered well-connected because of his political experience. From 2009 to 2017 he was chairman of the Social Democrats, working in the cabinets of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) as environment, economic and foreign minister.

Gabriel announced weeks ago to resign his parliamentary mandate in November. At the same time, the VDA wants to decide on a new chairman at the beginning of the month. The former incumbent Bernhard Mattes will resign from office at the end of the year.

The complete interview with Sigmar Gabriel will be published on Wednesday in the new issue of ZEIT and on Tuesday evening on ZEIT ONLINE.