Ferdinand Piech, Volkswagen - Porsche Patriarch and Savior, Dies at 82

Ferdinand Piëch

Piech, a brilliant engineer in his own right who nearly single handedly modernized Volkswagen and Audi's product, transformed Volkswagen from a struggling carmaker with woeful productivity and spotty quality into a global powerhouse and a leader in automotive design and engineering during his tenure as the company's chief executive.

A representative for its Piech and Porsche households, who control a vast majority stake in Volkswagen during their loved ones holding business Porsche SE, had no immediate comment.

Grandson of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche, Piech joined the firm created by his grandfather in 1963, going on to successes such as the development of the Porsche 917 race auto.

The grandson of legendary carmaker Ferdinand Porsche, Piech began his career at Audi and took over as CEO of Volkswagen in 1993.

His wife, Ursula, confirmed in a written statement sent through a Berlin lawyer that her husband died "suddenly and unexpectedly" on Sunday, according to German news wire Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Wolfgang Porsche (l), and Ferdinand Piech in better times.

Piech angered members of his family at the height of the emissions scandal when he claimed he had alerted key VW directors in February 2015 to the affair.

An excellent scientist, Piech turned around VW after gambling on a modular building technique which enabled Audi, Skoda, and VW manufacturers to discuss around 65% standard components, assisting Volkswagen Group to reach more significant economies of scale.


Under Piech's leadership, VW added high-margin luxury marques to VW's volume brands, acquiring the Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini brands in a single year.

Piech took over as chief executive of Audi parent Volkswagen in January 1993 at a time when the company was in crisis. Politics and business never diverted me from the heart of our mission: "to grow and create appealing automobiles", Piech wrote in his autobiography.

Piech was born April 17, 1937 with Ferndinand Porsche as his maternal grandfather who sired the Volkswagen Beetle.

Four years later, Volkswagen is still dealing with fallout from the diesel scandal, although it has managed to retain its crown as the world's top carmaker by sales as of 2018.

At this time, the then-31-year-old developed racing cars in secret as head of development at Porsche, with many iterations of the Porsche 917 race auto which led to success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the German marque in 1970.

Piech left VW in a dispute with his successor Martin Winterkorn, who was ousted amidst dieselgate allegations. In the 1960s, he worked on the development of Porsche's 917 race vehicle, one of his undisputed career highlights. He also moved the Audi brand upscale by emphasizing aerodynamic design, which was critical in making it a credible rival to Mercedes-Benz and BMW not only in Europe but also the USA and China.

Piech was known for his ability to outmanoeuvre competitors by stoking internal rivalries to his own advantage, even if it resulted in turning against his own managers, including the VW chief executive Bernd Pischetsrieder, to side with VW's labour leaders. It's said that when Piech joined VW, the company was three-months from filing bankruptcy!

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