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Former VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piech died at the age of 82 in August 2019. Here are a few things you must know about the legend
Sure Porsche is a part of the Volkswagen Group family now but Ferdinand Piech was actually Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson! He started working at Porsche in 1963 and his first major project was to develop the bonkers 906 race car, the 906 paved the way for the extremely successful 917 which Piech had a hand in developing as well.
When Audi was introduced as a part of the Volkswagen Group in 1969 it was largely unsuccessful, Piech was made head of development in the 1970’s where he developed turbo-diesel engines for consumer cars. He also introduced Quattro; Audi’s four-wheel-drive system and helped them win multiple rally championships. He also helped them achieve the status of being a competitor to Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
The Cold War was ending but the jokes on Skoda weren’t. Skoda wasn’t particularly known for making great driving cars, unlike today. Ferdinand Piech was integral in joining the Czech Automotive company to the Volkswagen Group and helped them make better cars by using parts from the group’s vast inventory as well as sharing platforms with the group to further reduce costs. Today we see Skoda as one of the best and most value for money brands in the market. The car pictured below is the Felicia, one of the first models to benefit from it’s take over by the Volkswagen Group.
Ferdinand was appointed as CEO of the Volkswagen Group in 1993, the company was in a bad state, almost close to bankruptcy. This is where he played his ace shot – launching the Volkswagen Golf Mk.4. The car was a huge success in itself but the most important thing was unifying the Golf’s platform with multiple cars across the Volkswagen group. This reduced manufacturing costs by huge amounts and the money saved was being put into making better quality interiors and better engineered cars. This took the Volkswagen Group into the stratosphere. It’s a common sight now to see car manufacturers using the same platform for multiple models although Ferdinand Piech was not the one who invented it but he was the one who mastered it, first at Audi and then at Volkswagen Group at a much larger scale.
Another acquisition under Ferdinand’s leadership was the French brand Bugatti. His plan was to make a car the likes of which no one had ever seen before. Ferdinand reportedly laid down the power and top speed figures of the Veyron even before they had a working prototype. He wanted to do the impossible and break the 400km/h barrier with 1000bhp. Engineers who failed to meet targets were simply fired. Ferdinand had a dream and he was going to see it turned into reality. This ambition gave birth to the first ‘Hypercar’, a car which had no competition in any measurable way. The Bugatti Veyron.
Ferdinand Piech was integral in Audi’s return to Le Mans. His earlier brain-child, Quattro, was implemented on the Le Mans cars, making them much superior to the competition. They secured 13 Le Mans victories over 15 years, starting from year 2000. The Audi R10 TDI triumphed in 2006 as the first diesel-powered racing car at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Ferdinand Piech had some of the world’s best car brands under his leadership which can explain his magnificent collection of cars. He owns the world’s only fixed roof Porsche 918 Spyder (all others came with a detachable hard top). He also owns one the very first Veyrons as well as the Veyron Supersport. Digressing from the German brands he also owns a Ferrari 458 as well as a Ducati. Piech reportedly had very specific requests for his cars. For example, a highly tuned VW Golf that looked like a stock Golf R from the outside. He was also rumoured to have a single ‘master key’ that could function with all his cars.
Words by Karan Singh