- a giant in the history of the auto industry, once named car executive of the century, has died, four years after resigning and walking away from the company he led to greatness.
- ferdinand piëch had been described as "machiavellian" and "often feared," and his tenure at vw was marked by intense politicking and power struggles.
- in his personal life, he had 12 children by four women; he is survived by his wife, ursula, who at one time was believed to be his choice to succeed him at volkswagen.
the iconic volkswagen group chairman ferdinand piëch died on sunday, august 25, at age 82. he collapsed in a bavarian restaurant in the presence of his wife, ursula, and was taken to a hospital, where he died, the german broadcaster deutsche welle reported today. his tenure at vw was marked by the acquisition of porsche, the rise of audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system, and the transformation of volkswagen from a money-losing company to the pinnacle of the world's auto industry.
piëch, a grandson of ferdinand porsche, trained as an engineer at the swiss federal institute of technology and then joined porsche in 1963, becoming head of r&d five years later and technical director in 1971. the porsche and piëch families then agreed that no family member could be an executive at the company, so he moved to audi and volkswagen. piëch was behind the inclusion of lamborghini, bentley, bugatti, and ducati motorcycles in the vw portfolio. he is credited with coalescing them along with a group of mass-market brands into a formidable automotive power.
but he wielded power in a way that did not always bear fruit. his leadership style amounted to, as the german publication handelsblatt described it, "the life of a warrior," and although he remained on the company's supervisory board after mandatory retirement at age 65, he fell out with the company and resigned in the spring of 2015, just before news of volkswagen's devastating dieselgate scandal came to light.
handelsblatt wrote at the time that he became "something like a grand war memorial that the world looks upon with respect, but also with a sense of loss."