We are sad to hear of another loss in the automotive industry, on Monday August 26th, former Volkswagen (VW) boss and AHF Inductee, Ferdinand Piëch passed away. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends. Piëch held the position of Chairman at Volkswagen, he was also the CEO, starting in 1993 until 2002. Piëch was born on April 17, 1937 in Vienna, to Anton and Louise Piëch. His grandfather, Ferdinand Porsche (Louise’s father), founded Porsche AG was also hired by Adolf Hitler to design a “people’s car,” which became known as the VW Beetle after World War II.
After attending the Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz boarding school in Switzerland and earning an engineering degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Piëch began working under his uncle at Porsche. He eventually became a technical manager at Porsche and helped in the development of the 906 through the 917 (which gave Porsche its first win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 and 71). Piëch was at Porsche until 1972 when he made the move to Audi and three years later, became the manager of technological engineering. There he was responsible for the concepts of the Audi 80 and 100; he also pushed the development of the four-wheel-drive in the Audi Quattro, the first rally car to utilize the four-wheel-drive system since the rule change. Once the success of the Quattro in racing was apparent, Audi decided to implement the quattro four-wheel-drive system in all of its production vehicles, and has remained relatively the same since.
After approximately 21 years at Audi, Piëch became the Chairman of the Board of Management at Volkswagen AG (VW), succeeding Carl Hahn. He took up this position while VW was in financial stress, three months from bankruptcy. Piëch was able to turn the company around, and relatively quickly at that, he was even able to bring VW back into the North American markets, something that his predecessor, Hahn had struggled with. In 2002, he left his executive management position and began serving as the chairman of the Supervisory Board of VW until 2015. In this position he was able to continue to influence the company, and by 2012 VW had either owned or had controlling shares in 12 different vehicle brands.
Piëch will always be remembered as a pillar in the automotive industry, especially in Germany, as someone who revived that market for the first since his grandfather had designed the original Beetle. The sudden loss of the passionate and dedicated car lover will be felt throughout the auto industry and we are joining them in mourning.