The former chairman of the Volkswagen Group, Ferdinand Piech, has died.
It’s been reported that the 82-year-old passed away in a clinic in Bavaria Sunday night after collapsing at a restaurant.
Piech, the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, was regarded as one of the most formidable figures in the automotive world during his long reign at Volkswagen.
He began working at Porsche in 1963, before moving to VW in 1972.
He was made CEO of the VW Group in 1993, turning the then-ailing company’s fortunes around through tough management and a focus on reducing costs without cutting quality.
During his tenure as CEO, Piech built the VW Group into a global powerhouse by acquiring and reviving numerous brands, including Skoda, Bentley and Lamborghini. He was also behind the revival of the Bugatti brand, though the program would ultimately cost the brand a lot of money.
Piech also signed off on VW’s acquisition of Porsche in 2012, though it was almost the other way around; the sports car company came perilously close to stealing VW from under Piech’s nose.
Piech at the Porsche annual stockholder meeting in 2017
A former engineer, Piech was instrumental in the development of all-wheel-drive for passenger vehicles via his work with Audi, and he also pushed the company to move into areas like passenger car diesel technology.
A strong-willed character, his desire for the brand to succeed in the United States brought about the onset of the emissions testing scandal in 2014 that came to be known as Dieselgate.
Though Piech would step down from Volkswagen before the scandal broke, it was his bull-at-a-gate management style that would ultimately lead to engineers within the company and outside of it to concoct a solution to lowering stated emissions from its diesel products.
Piech himself would escape prosecution in relation to the scandal, but it is a legacy that in many ways sums up his time at the helm of the Volkswagen Group – succeed, no matter what.
“If I want to achieve something, I approach the problem and push it through without realising what’s happening around me,” he wrote in his 2002 autobiography. “My desire for harmony is limited.”
He is survived by five children with his first wife, the former Corina von Planta; two from his relationship with Marlene Porsche, the former wife of his cousin Gerhard Porsche; three with Ursula Piech (below); and two other children.