The former head of the Volkswagen Group has died suddenly at the age of 82, four years after resigning from the company he led to greatness, according to a statement by his wife, Ursula.
Ferdinand Karl Piëch was born on 17 April 1937, in Vienna. His father, Anton, was a lawyer, and his mother, Louise, was the daughter of Ferdinand Porsche. The third of four children, Ferdinand Piëch had two brothers and a sister.
As a young engineer, he made Porsche a brand in racing through legendary vehicles such as the 917 and the Le Mans victory. Since 1972, he brought Audi up to the next technological level with innovations such as quattro four wheel drive and the TDI turbo diesel engine, shaping Audi into a premium brand.
Heading the Volkswagen Group, Ferdinand Piëch advanced its pedigree by integrating Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti into the Group, while also leading the volume brands to international competitiveness through a consistent platform strategy. He also integrated the trucking businesses of Scania and MAN into the Group, laying the foundation for a globally competitive commercial vehicle supplier.
Technologically, he and his development teams have repeatedly gone beyond the limits of the feasible – from the first one-litre car in the world to the Bugatti Veyron with 1001 horsepower.
His biggest triumph was the acquisition of the Porsche brand in 2012. The takeover came with a personal twist – Piëch was able to turn the tables on his cousin, Wolfgang Porsche, who had pushed the sports-car producer to bid for VW four years earlier. Piëch sided with the state of Lower Saxony, which owns a blocking stake in VW, to rebuff Porsche’s offer just as the suitor’s debt was surging from the takeover effort.
Bob Lutz, former Vice-Chairman of GM and veteran of Chrysler, Ford and BMW, summed up Piëch in this way:
“While his stubborn sense of infallibility led to one or two colossal blunders, such as the beautiful but failed VW Phaeton, a $100,000 luxury car that was doomed by its VW badge, Piëch’s strong direction and insistence on excellence made the VW Group, including Audi, SEAT, Škoda, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley and others, into a global automotive powerhouse.”