The man credited as “Mr Volkswagen” died suddenly on Sunday in a clinic in Rosenheim, Bavaria after an evening in a restaurant. He was 82 years old. His wife, Ursula confirmed this in writing with their Berlin-based lawyer.
Ferdinand Karl Piech was born in Vienna and was the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, the father of the iconic Volkswagen Beetle and part of the Porsche and Piech family, which today still controls the vast Volkswagen Group.
Piech trained as an engineer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and then joined Porsche in 1963, becoming head of Research & Development five years later, and technical director in 1971.
A brilliant engineer, Piech turned around VW after betting on a modular construction technique which allowed Audi, Skoda and VW brands to share up to 65% common parts, helping the Volkswagen Group attain greater economies of scale.
Under Piech’s leadership, VW emphasised engineering brilliance ahead of profits, and went on an expansion spree, adding high-margin luxury marques Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini brands in a single year.
During his nine-year tenure Piech turned a loss equivalent of 1 billion euros into a 2.6 billion euro profit while spearheading VW’s expansion into a 12-brand empire which includes Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Audi, Porsche and Ducati in addition to the MAN and Scania truck brands.
Also credited as the father of the Porsche 917 and Bugatti Veyron, Piech was passionate about motorsports and found it to be a great tool for research and development of new engine technologies.
While working as a 31-year old development chief at Porsche in 1968, he invested two-thirds of Porsche’s annual racing budget to build 25 Porsche 917 race cars with an untested radical 600 horsepower air-cooled 12-cylinder engine design.
He will be missed by all the VW Group brands and the millions of car owners around the world despite his retirement from the Volkswagen Group.
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