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Volkswagen's Mercurial Former Chairman, Ferdinand Piech, Dies At 82

Industry News / 8 Comments

The man responsible for the Bugatti Veyron, Audi Quattro and Porsche 917 among many other monumental achievements has died.

The former Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piech has died. Multiple reports from German media sources say he collapsed at a Bavarian restaurant before being taken to a hospital, where he died at age 82.

The great-grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, Piech started out as an engineer in the family business in 1963, and he went on to become one of the most influential figures in the international automotive industry. During his time with Porsche, Piëch made his name by spearheading the development of the iconic 906 race car and was an important part of Porsche's motorsport operations.

Goran Wink via Scania CV AB
via Audi AG

His final contributions to Porsche's racing heritage was with the legendary 917. In 1963 he moved to Audi where he worked his way up to CEO and, as he did at Porsche, pushed to modernize production and technology and delivered some more exceptional race cars, including the Audi Quattro.

In the early 1990s, Piech became chairman of Volkswagen at a time when the automaker was plagued by quality problems and high costs. VW was in trouble, however, Piëch managed to turn things around without resorting to large-scale job cuts while building better cars. Along the way, he managed to walk the line and endear himself to unions and shareholders alike. He also recognized the importance of adding prestige brands and brought Bentley, Ducati, Bugatti, Lamborghini into VW's stables.

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In terms of brands though, Piech's crowning achievement was bringing Porsche to the Volkswagen Group in 2012. For the Volkswagen brand, his biggest success was turning things around in North America where VW's were generally known as underpowered old Beetles and Rabbits. He was also known for ruling VW Group with an iron fist. The auto industry titan Bob Lutz, also known for being an autocrat with an allergy to consensus, even described Piech as the "autocrat's autocrat."

Piech's reign over the Volkswagen Group came to an end in 2015 when the controversy over diesel emissions test cheating forced him to step down. In 2017, he sold his 14.7-percent stake in Porsche for a reported $1.2 billion. Piech was a car man through and through and owned the only fixed-roof Porsche 918 ever made.

via Audi AG
via Bugatti
via Bentley
via Lamborghini

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