Ferdinand Piech was instrumental in turning Volkswagen into the powerhouse it is today, but the reports out of Germany indicate the former executive has passed away at the age of 82.
According to Bild, Piech collapsed at a restaurant over the weekend and was pronounced dead last night. Officials haven’t confirmed his death, but he resigned from his position as Volkswagen Group chairman in 2015 over a reported power struggle. At the time, reports suggested he was trying to oust VW CEO Martin Winterkorn and have him replaced by Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller.
While that plan backfired, Winterkorn was eventually shoved out the door following the dieselgate scandal. He was eventually charged with committing conspiracy and wire fraud by the U.S. Department of Justice which claimed Winterkorn was “clearly informed of the emissions cheating” scandal and was shown a PowerPoint presentation detailing it and the potential consequences of getting caught.
Getting back to Piech, Bloomberg notes he was the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche and became VW CEO in 1993 when the troubled automaker has hemorrhaging money. Piech managed to right the ship and turned the company into a global powerhouse which ended up buying a number of brands under his watch including Bentley, Bugatti and Porsche.
While Piech was a brilliant manager, he also loved cars and has a series of pet projects. The Bugatti Veyron was an expensive success of sorts, while the Volkswagen Phaeton and XL1 will go down in history as interesting experiments.
Individual models might have been hit or miss, but the transformation of Volkswagen Group companies under his watch was truly amazing. Audi turned into a legitimate rival to BMW and Mercedes, while Lamborghini was given the funds to develop a string of stylish and successful supercars. Bentley was reborn, while Skoda turned into a brand that was finally worthy of your consideration. It’s quite a legacy and that’s just scratching the surface.
Thanks to Enrico for the tip!